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Yearly Archives: 2014
Merry Christmas, Everyone!!
The Christmas carol O Holy Night is my favorite. I love how gently it reminds me that Jesus is Savior and King, and how it inspires me to worship Him. Not because I am subservient, but because I choose to give Him honor. Not because of what He has done for me, although I’m grateful and He’s certainly worthy of my best, but because of who He is. When I hear O Holy Night I picture what it would be like walking into the presence of Jesus; to feel the love that radiates from Him. I cannot think of anything more intimate or amazing than being in the presence of someone who loves me that much. When the lyric says “fall on your knees;” I see myself so overwhelmed by His love that I sink straight to my knees to adore Him.
This song reminds me the meaning of Christmas is love. Jesus’ immense and immeasurable love for us and our love for Him and our love for one another. Love that is patient. Love that is kind. Love that forgives and forgets. Love that encourages our best, and supports us when we’re floundering. It reminds me that Jesus values me. He believes in me, enough to sacrifice His life for mine. It reminds me to not grow weary, because there is always hope.
There are about a zillion versions of this song out there, give or take a trillion or two, but my favorite is when I heard Natalie Grant sing it live a few years ago. I cried. So did most of the people around me. I found a video of her singing it live, so I am sharing it with you. I hope it moves you as much as it moves me. So without further adieu here’s Natalie Grant singing O Holy Night. (PS…she opens the song slightly differently than you may have heard before).
Here are the lyrics to O Holy Night by John Sullivan Dwight, so you can sing along.
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
Here are a few bonus versions for you, depending upon your musical tastes.
Sometimes your situation just sucks. You look at the facts and you’re like, yep, it’s over for me now. This is the battle I’m not strong enough to win, and you start looking for the surrender flag. Well, before you start waving that little white flag think about King David. II Samuel 15 tells the story of Absalom betraying and rebelling against his father, King David. Rather than fighting, King David chooses to flee Jerusalem with his close followers, hoping to spare the city. I’m guessing he didn’t really want to fight against his son either. As David flees, he writes Psalm 3 to capture exactly how he’s feeling.
What I appreciate about this Psalm is David is vulnerable with the Lord, sharing his raw emotion about being betrayed, being the subject of ridicule, and feeling like everyone and everything was against him. He feels all his feelings, as my roommate would say. But David doesn’t allow himself to be trapped in his “feelings.” He acknowledges the facts of the situation, but then reminds himself that God is bigger than his circumstances. He declares the truth over the facts. Facts are facts. But truth….ah truth. Truth is bigger than facts.
Here’s what I mean:
The facts say: My son has betrayed me. Many of my own people have sided with him against me. The rest of the kingdom are talking about me. Telling each other that God’s against me. I’ve had to go on the run, AGAIN. First from Saul and now from my own son!
David could have looked at the reality of the facts and given up. He could have admitted defeat. He could have sat under his little cloud of depression and let the lamentation pour out of him. “Poor me. Nothing ever goes right for me. I’ve done what I was supposed to do, I don’t deserve this. My life is over. It will never be good again. I might as well give up.” But he didn’t!
Psalm 3:1-2 is David acknowledging the facts of his situation and feeling his feelings.
“O Lord, I have so many enemies;
so many are against me.
So many are saying,
“God will never rescue him!”“
Psalm 3:3-6 is where David shifts to declaring what He knows to be true. He reminds himself who God is and who he is to God.
“But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;
you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
I cried out to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy mountain.
I lay down and slept,
yet I woke up in safety,
for the Lord was watching over me.
I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies
who surround me on every side.“
Psalm 3:7-8 is David asking the Lord to change the facts based upon the truth.
“Arise, O Lord!
Rescue me, my God!
Slap all my enemies in the face!
Shatter the teeth of the wicked!
Victory comes from you, O Lord.
May you bless your people.“
David’s situation was real! He was in a life or death situation here. There was a real army invading his city, led by his own son. I’m not making light of the seriousness of this situation. I wouldn’t make light of anyone’s situation. I get that facts and reality are real. I’m not trying to sugar coat and say that bad things never happen. We live in a world that has evil in it. Good stuff and bad stuff happens to EVERYONE. Tragedy and difficult situations occur whether you are at the top of the heap or closer to the bottom. Jesus, Himself, said, “The father gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” (Matthew 4:45) God only gives good gifts, because that is all he has to give. But because of the state of this world, everyone will face issues and hard times. It’s just the way that it is right now.
I don’t know what your facts are. You may be facing foreclosure on your home. You or someone you love may be fighting for your life against disease or cancer. Or like David, you may have been betrayed. If you’re struggling, I am sorry. Truly. But if you get caught up in your feelings over the facts, your battle will be harder and longer. I’m not saying ignore your feelings, because you need to acknowledge how you feel about the situation. What I’m saying is don’t stay there. I’m also not telling you to dismiss reality and put your head in the sand and wait for the situation to go away. I’m far too practical for that nonsense. What I am saying is that facts change! You may get a check tomorrow that catches up or pays off all your bills. You may be healed this very day. You never know how the goodness of God will show up in your life. He’s the source of all creativity so it may not be in the way you expect. Something could happen in 5 minutes that completely changes everything.
Take David’s model and apply it to your situation. Here’s an example for someone who is unemployed and facing foreclosure of their home:
Facts and feelings:
Lord, I am terrified. I don’t have a job and I am six months behind on my mortgage and only a few days away from my house being foreclosed on. Not only will my credit be destroyed by this, but I could lose my home. I don’t want to be homeless, especially in the winter. I don’t know what to do!!!
Shift to the truth:
I know I am Your child, Father, and that You love me! I know that You are my provider. You have blessed me with well paying jobs in the past. You have provided for me during my unemployment. I’ve always had food and money to pay my gas and electric bills. Thank you for being my provision. You are good. You are faithful. You are Yahweh Yireh! The God who provides. The last time I was unemployed you provided me a place to live and provision. I know that you will continue to provide in this time of unemployment.
Prayer and Declaration:
Arise O Lord and Rescue me, my God! I cannot do this without you, I need a miracle. I believe you will provide! I will receive your provision no matter which way it comes to me. I thank you for the provision you’ve given me in the past and I thank you for what you are doing now on my behalf. I declare that my house is paid off in the Name of Yahweh Yireh. Even though I fear poverty and homelessness, I know your love is bigger than my fear. I know that your goodness and mercy are bigger than my situation and mistakes. Thank you for blessing me Father!
The facts in your life may be dire, but those facts are subject to change. Your identity, who you are in Christ Jesus, does not change because of your circumstances and situations. Truth is that you are a beloved child of God. Truth is that greater is He that is within you, than he that is in the world. Truth is that you are valued by God. Your worth and value to Him does not change because of the mistakes you made or your circumstances, even if they are bigger than you can handle. Truth is that God is bigger than any circumstance or situation, and He loves you passionately and unconditionally.
Throughout the Bible God continually repeats, “Do not fear.” Why? Fear blocks believing & prevents receiving. It rejects hope & despises love. Fear inspires procrastination & nurtures doubt.
“There’s no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life–fear of death–fear of judgment–is one not fully formed in love.” I John 4:18 MSG
I need to share something I read on FB last week. It impacted me deeply and I am going to tell you why, if you don’t want to know why, feel free to scroll down.
I had made a vow as a nine year old that walled me in from allowing myself to be loved. It was in reaction to nearly losing my mom. While I didn’t actually lose my mom, she’s still alive and kicking and completely fabulous, the thought of losing her crippled me in a way that I have no words for. I was terrified of loss. So at the age of nine after a complete bawling session, I washed my face and looked my little blonde self in the mirror and said, “I will never need anyone again.”
Here are some effects of this vow:
1. I sabotaged relationships and only committed myself to relationships that I knew couldn’t possibly work.
2. I struggled with commitment to anything, even though I craved stability.
3. Even though I had my mom and still have my mom, I didn’t really let her be my mom. I could be found most often trying to be her mom or trying to distance myself from her as far as possible. It would be easier for me that way, like it wouldn’t hurt so much if I lost her. Wow. That doesn’t sound crazy at all, does it?
I need to take a minute to tell you about my little tiny mom. (She’s 4’10” and weighs about 100 lbs…so I call her my little momma). My mom is not perfect, but I have to give her a shout out here. I was not the easiest child to raise (rebellious, mouthy, attitudinal, angry, ran away from home and hitch-hiked to Florida with my boyfriend and one of my best friends at age 17…you get the picture). But she was always there. She never left. My mom is stubborn, honest, and fiercely loyal. She always went to bat for me, and she still does. One could do worse than to have a mom who will fight for you and against you when needed. She made a choice to love me and she never stopped, even when it was hard. Thank you, Little Momma!
4. I went to college and got a degree, but didn’t go after photography and writing which were my actual dreams. I was afraid they would tell me I wasn’t any good at writing and photography, and I couldn’t bear to hear it. So I majored in International Relations (AKA wanting to live in foreign countries where accents abound).
5. I didn’t really try or challenge myself in High School or College because I didn’t want to fail. I always took the easy road, whichever path did not require effort. Why go after what you want? If you do, and do manage to get it, you could lose it. So I didn’t take any risk. Fear of failure, check. Fear of success, check. Crazy, check check.
The kicker is that I had no idea why I did these things. I only understood recently that the reason I was so afraid was wrapped up in a fear of loss and a vow I made at nine years old.
I never told anyone of this decision not to need anyone. I didn’t even remember it until God showed me why I was struggling so hard to give and receive love and why it was so incredibly difficult for me to allow anyone to bless me or help me. This vow was made to protect myself, but really what it did was isolate me and prevent me from really receiving the love I so desperately wanted. I believed that the lie that I wasn’t really loved. I believed the lie that I was a mistake that needed to be erased. I believed the lie that I did not need anyone, not even Jesus. Although I accepted Him as my Savior “just in case” because I was afraid of eternal fire and damnation.
Yes, I am aware of what a mess I was. Yes, I am aware of how crazy all of this sounds and is. It’s why I love Jesus so much. He loved me even when I was completely unable to love Him. He loves me still. And I am crying now. (Deep breath taken here.)
I disavowed that vow and asked Jesus to help me to undo it. I don’t know what kind of help I expected. But I certainly was not expecting a season where I had absolutely no choice but to allow people to help me and ask for help. I have always been willing to give, but receiving has been near impossible for me. And now I have to let people help me, even though I have no way to repay them. I have to trust that Jesus will repay what I cannot. I pray blessing over those that have come along side of me and been helping me. I hope that someday I will be able to pass on what I have been given to other people.
And now I am crying again…sheeesh. I seem to cry a lot these days. Not because I’m sad. But because I am overwhelmed by love and generosity and kindness of the people in my world. Something I never would have experienced if God hadn’t shown me this deeply embedded root. Gratitude abounds in a time when I don’t have a whole lot that seems to be going right.
That being said…here’s a post by Jo Ellen Stevens. (Note: I copied the following word for word. I did not write it, nor do I own the content.) I hope that this helps you.
WHEN MY VOW BECAME A GOD
Jo Ellen Stevens
” If a man vows a vow to the Lord or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break and profane his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” Numbers 30:2 (AMP)
The Lord spoke to me the other day out of the blue and began to show me something about many of you. He began by reminding me of my story. When I was very, very young I was married to a man that was abusive both verbally and physically. I don’t tell you this story to gain your sympathy or to make excuses for my life but to see you set free of something that you may not even realize has controlled your life for many years…
While I was married to this man back in 1969 I became pregnant with the only child that I ever had and is now with the Lord.. Because of some of the abuse I believe I lost this child.
When I began to miscarry he took me to the Airforce hospital in Michigan that we were stationed at and there he left me in this cold room with no one to be with me.. I remember there being another person in the room in another bed . I was in full labor because I was about five months along.
I remember at one point a nurse coming in and saying to me that I needed to be quiet so as to not disturb anyone else.. So as silently as I could in that much pain I finished having this miscarriage. The next morning I woke up to go to the restroom and passed out..The next thing I knew I was back in bed and they told me that I had, had a DNC. I didn’t even know what that was I was just 16 years old and didn’t know much about life…
When I came out and went home my husband began to tell me how fat I was, so I ate nothing but beef broth until I was down to my size three clothes again. I found out from someone that my husband had been at a party all the while that I was in the hospital with another woman.
The next week we went to a place with some friends and I was in the back seat and started crying as I was telling the other lady in our car about my miscarriage and my then husband stopped the car abruptly and turned around and began slapping me over and over..
I told you all of this to show you where I was going with this.. Many years later after I had been divorced and had gotten married to my husband now of 25 years. I was in my basement ironing and I was asking the Lord what caused my perfectionism that had driven me and everyone else nearly crazy for many years..
He showed me that at that moment that the incident happened that I had Vowed a Vow in my heart that I would never let another man do that to me again..That I would always be the prettiest and the skinniest, the best house keeper etc….
…He said that I needed to disavow that which I had vowed.. I cried all day but God set me free..
Now just the other day the Lord spoke to me again and said this…. He said that when you vow a vow that was not of him that the vow begins to inwardly govern your life and it becomes a God to you instead of Him..
He said many of my people in tough situations in their lives have become perfectionists and many other things because they vowed a vow that was not of Him..They have blocked out my will for their life because it had become a constitution to them…
He said that He wanted me to bring this out so that any of you can ask the Holy Spirit to shine His light on these areas and you can be set free to be obedient to Him again…
So ask the Lord right now to shine His light in any area that you have made your own constitution. He is ready to set you free…. It is not an easy thing to do .It will tear you up inside but it is a good tearing.. You will feel so free when this happens!!
Many of you will be healed in your body right now as you allow this to happen…. Glory to our Deliverer!!!
Father, we ask you to shine your light on those places in us that we have not yielded over to you because of ungodly vows in our time of pain.. We ask you to cleanse us of that and let your Holy Spirit teach us how to walk in freedom and obedience to your will In Jesus Mighty Name!! Amen!!
Arise,shine! Jo Ellen Stevens
“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” I John 4:7-12
I want to be a better lover of people. I want to be someone who can love everyone. Whether I like them or not. Whether or not they choose to believe what I believe or not. Whether they love Jesus or not. I want to be that way because God is that way. There are many people in the world who spurn, speak against, and even loathe God. But He loves them anyway. He believes in them anyway. He gives them choice and the free will to hate Him. Even though He is love and loves everyone, He allows people to choose what they believe and how they will live.
I don’t know exactly what that looks like or how to do it, but I want to be better at loving people.
I want to be better at loving people because the human race is starving for real love. We look for love everywhere. We search at school, work, bars and even online. We stay in horrible relationships because some “love” is better than none. We accept these cheap imitations because we are afraid we’ll never have the real thing. We choose to withhold love like a bargaining chip in a battle for control.
Love is not a bargaining chip. Love is not a feeling. Love is not lust. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not envy. Love does not boast. Love is not proud. Love is not rude. Love is not self-seeking. Love is not easily angered. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil. Love rejoices with the truth. Love always protects. Love always trusts. Love always hopes. Love always perseveres. Love never fails. Love doesn’t coddle. Love doesn’t control. Love doesn’t demand. Love respects. Love encourages. Love covers.
God is love. He is the origin of love. He cannot help but love. It is who He is. Everything He does comes from a love motivation. That is why we have free will and the right to choose. Simply because He loves us enough not to control us.
I will admit that I have been somewhat terrified to love people right where they are because I don’t want to condone sin. If that isn’t being a religious Pharisee I don’t know what is. But hey it’s the truth. I was afraid. I always wanted to be on the right side of the line so I didn’t go down with the ship. I don’t want to be lumped in with all the people who chose to spurn God.
But slowly I came to the understanding that I am useless to people if I don’t love them right where they are. That’s what I Corinthians 13 means. I can do everything right but if I don’t choose to love people then I am nothing more than a crashing cymbal, making a whole lot of useless racket. I want to be better at loving people. I want to love people like Jesus did.
How did Jesus love people? Radically! He spent most of his time with people who could never give Him anything in return. Lepers. The poor. Samaritans. Prostitutes. Tax collectors. Drunks. You get the point. Jesus went to the Temple and did his part there. But most of his time was outside the walls of the temple. He was killed because He loved people radically. His love was confrontational to those who were religious and those with agendas. But Jesus loved anyway.
The Pharisees and Sadducees were unwilling to receive Jesus’s love and offer of relationship. They clung to the black and white laws because it was safe. You knew exactly what you could and could not do. I can totally relate to this. It seems easier to put yourself in a box. It mitigates risk of contamination from the sinners. I did it for a time. Got exhausted. Gave up and went 100% in the opposite direction. Did I know it was wrong. Yes. Did I care? Not really no.
I’ve asked myself why I just quit, even though I knew the truth. And after a really long time, I realize there were several answers to that question. One is that I was miserable and everyone else seemed to be having way more fun than me. Another is that it is very stressful to try to be perfect and stay in that box every second of every day. But the underlying reason is I didn’t believe I was worthy of love, especially not from God, because I believed I had to earn it. But guess what? I am not flawless nor can I be flawless every second of every day. So I decided to just do whatever I felt like doing, because it was way too hard to be perfect.
When I came back to God, I did so with a whole lot of condemnation. Not from the people at church, but from myself. I prayed that I could work off all the wrong that I did. My whole mindset was about working and earning and fixing. So I did everything I thought I was supposed to. I went to church every time the doors were open. I took classes. I got baptized. I got Spirit filled. I prayed in tongues. But I had no peace, no joy, and I felt worthless. I kept tripping and making messes. I hurt people.
I went to church on and off from the time I was about 5 or maybe 6 years old. I received Jesus as my savior when I was 16 years old. I walked away at 17. I came back at 25. In all that time I memorized verses about love. I knew “Jesus loved me.” But there’s a difference between “knowing something” and really understanding what it means. When I was 36 and a half years old, I finally understood that Jesus loved me. Not just the little kid’s song kinda love. But unconditionally loved me. It wrecked me. I was a pile of mush when I really saw that He was there loving me and believing in me when I was drinking myself numb and sleeping around. He was loving and believing in me every day for my whole life.
I have grown and changed more in the last 3 years than I did in the previous 36. Why? Love. Love changes everything, even broken angry women with a fierce attitude who don’t need anyone’s help.
Love changes everything. And that is why I want to be a better lover of people. We all know what’s wrong with us and how screwed up we are. Let’s love ourselves and each other anyway.
“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.” I John 4:18-19
I recently read this blog post by Nate Pyle about confronting the lie that God won’t give you more than you can handle. All I have to say to this is AMEN!
I get so irritated by that trite NON-Biblical saying. Life will dish out way more than you can take. It’s life. It happens. And it happens to absolutely everyone at one time or another. No matter your age, race, religion. No matter what country or city you live it. Crap happens. Sometimes it’s deep crap.
I can tell you with certainty that it happens because I’ve been treading in the deep crap end of the pool for months and months. I haven’t loved the trials and struggles. I have hated every single minute of the struggle. No disrespect to the Apostle Paul, but rejoicing in trials is not my thing.
But even though I have hated every minute of this season, I have been learning a lot about myself, what I believe, and about who God really is. Even in this season of struggle, I have peace. When you receive letters from your mortgage company threatening foreclosure and your phone rings off the hook with collection calls, peace is a precious commodity. All I can say is that I would not have made it this far without Jesus and the peace He gives.
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”- John 14:27 NLT
I have peace even though there is absolutely nothing I can do to fix this situation by myself. I need a miracle. It’s pretty much the only answer to my situation right now. So I am praying for a miracle and trusting that God is with me in this mess that is more than I can handle.
The other thing that irritates me is when people say, “So where’s your good God now?” Um. Same place He’s always been. Right here with me. Loving me. Believing in me and rooting me on. I may not understand or know why, but I do know that I am not alone. And for now that is what I choose to focus on. To focus on the fact that I am loved nor am I alone. For that I am grateful.
I have days where I lose it and I whine and cry and eat whole pints of ice cream. I know ice cream doesn’t help, but it’s ice cream. What does help me when my focus is centered on how much my life is sucking at the moment is remembering Job. He went through about 9 months of trial and sickness, So I read the book of Job. But not the whole book. Not the parts where his friends try to explain why this is happening, when really they are more clueless than Job is. Nor the parts about what he lost or his suffering. I just read the end, chapters 38-40. It’s where God answers Job and Job gets to know God in a real and tangible way. It gives me hope to hang on for one more day and the peace squelches out my fear for that day.
If you’re swimming in the deep crap end with me, you don’t want to hear trite sayings. What you are going through sucks and I am sorry that you are hurting. I cannot fix it for you or tell you how long you’ll be there. I can tell you that you are loved. I can tell you that you are not alone. I am praying today for those who are suffering through a rough season of trials.
“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 NLT
Joshua was not an untested leader. He had been the military leader since the Children of Israel left Egypt. He was one of the twelve who spied out the promised land. He didn’t lack courage, strength or conviction. Yet in Deuteronomy 31:6, 7 and 23 and Joshua 1:6, 7, 9 and 18, God repeats the same message to Joshua. I am with you. I have chosen you for this task. Be strong. Be courageous. Why did He keep repeating the same message to Joshua?
In my opinion I think it’s the same reason He has to repeat the same things to us over and over again, because we can forget who we are in the trenches of day to day life.
God wasn’t telling Joshua to pray for strength or courage, He said be strong and courageous. Joshua already had the strength and courage residing on the inside of himself. He just needed to remember who he was and be who God made him to be.
The same is true for you. You are strong. You are courageous. You can do what the Lord has asked/is asking you to do. He made you specifically to be able to handle the life you would lead. He gave you talents, gifts and abilities. He created you with strength and courage. You were created with the ability to thrive in the environment that you would be in. But like everything, it’s a choice. You can choose to be strong and courageous and thrive. Or you can choose not to.
Joshua told his troops the same thing in Joshua 10:25, “Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged,” Joshua told his men. “Be strong and courageous…”
Paul tells the Corinthian church something very similar in I Corinthians 16:13-14 “Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.”
I am passing on this message to you. Remember who you are. You are a child of the Most High God. He is for you and not against you. Be who God made you to be. Be strong. Be courageous. There is strength and courage inside you already. Be you! You are strong and courageous!
Bonus Random Quote: “God’s plan for us is usually where our passions, our purpose and our capabilities intersect.” Bob Goff