75 posts categorized "Christmas"

There Once Was A Man Who Didn't Believe

6a00d83451ee9f69e20105365c5148970b-piThere was once a man who didn't believe in God, and he didn't hesitate to let others know how he felt about religion and religious holidays, like Christmas. His wife, however, did believe, and she raised their children to also have faith in God and Jesus, despite his disparaging comments.

One snowy Christmas Eve, his wife was taking their children to a Christmas Eve service in the farm community in which they lived. She asked him to come, but he refused.

"That story is nonsense!" he said. "Why would God lower Himself to come to Earth as a man? That's ridiculous!" So she and the children left, and he stayed home.

A while later, the winds grew stronger and the snow turned into a blizzard. As the man looked out the window, all he saw was a blinding snowstorm. He sat down to relax before the fire for the evening. Then he heard a loud thump. Something had hit the window. Then another thump. He looked out, but couldn't see more than a few feet.

When the snow let up a little, he ventured outside to see what could have been beating on his window. In the field near his house he saw a flock of wild geese. Apparently they had been flying south for the winter when they got caught in the snowstorm and couldn't go on. They were lost and stranded on his farm, with no food or shelter. They just flapped their wings and flew around the field in low circles, blindly and aimlessly. A couple of them had flown into his window, it seemed.

The man felt sorry for the geese and wanted to help them. The barn would be a great place for them to stay, he thought. It's warm and safe; surely they could spend the night and wait out the storm. So he walked over to the barn and opened the doors wide, then watched and waited, hoping they would notice the open barn and go inside.

image from unequalmarriage.typepad.comThe geese just fluttered around aimlessly and didn't seem to notice the barn or realize what it could mean for them. The man tried to get their attention, but that just seemed to scare them and they moved further away. He went into the house and came back out with some bread, broke it up, and made a breadcrumbs trail leading to the barn, but they still didn't catch on.

Now he was getting frustrated. He got behind them and tried to shoo them toward the barn, but they only got more scared and scattered in every direction except toward the barn. Nothing he did could get them to go into the barn where they would be warm and safe.

"Why don't they follow me?!" he exclaimed. "Can't they see this is the only place where they can survive the storm?" He thought for a moment and realized that they just wouldn't follow a human.

"If only I were a goose, then I could save them," he said out loud.

Then he had an idea. He went into barn, got one of his own geese, and carried it in his arms as he circled around behind the flock of wild geese. He then released it. His goose flew through the flock and straight into the barn - and one by one the other geese followed it to safety!

He stood silently for a moment as the words he had spoken a few minutes earlier replayed in his mind:

"If only I were a goose, then I could save them!" 

Then he thought about what he had said to his wife earlier. "Why would God want to be like us? That's ridiculous!"

Suddenly it all made sense. That is what God had done. We were like the geese - blind, lost, and perishing. God had His Son become like us so He could show us the way and save us. That was the meaning of Christmas, he realized!

As the winds and blinding snow died down, his soul became quiet and pondered this wonderful thought. Suddenly he understood what Christmas was all about, why Christ had come.

Years of doubt and disbelief vanished like the passing storm. He fell to his knees in the snow, and prayed his first prayer: 

"Thank You, God, for coming in human form to get me out of the storm!" 

~Author Unknown

*****

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The Voice of Hope This Christmas

Luke 2 11 Manger at NightAnd 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 2:8-12

Years of antiquity, long since passed, in a singular moment of time, a Prince was born. Conceived in holiness, brought forth and swaddled in lowliness. His name declared in the heavens with shouts of wonder, from the angels On High. The pride of His Father.

His name, Emmanuel – God with us.

This humble child, a gift to the multitudes whom toil in bitterness and strife. The years of His youth, His stature increased as love and wisdom grew gaining favor with God and mankind. His voice, a ministry of kindness, mercy, repentance and forgiveness, releasing the people to hope once again, to believe and witness the power of a good Father.

Raised as an example to follow. His message was clear:

Peace silences confusion and fear.

Truth frees minds from anxiety, depression, addiction, and trauma.

Joy restores dreams and creativity.

Righteous conquers illness.

Forgiveness heals the heart, mind, and soul.

Love defeats hate.

This babe born and placed in a trough of animals, grown, then hung on a tree. Cursed of our sins, now forgiven, are you and me. The power of heaven lights the sky. Flashes of victory and out of death He rises. The world now redeemed. Time split in two. Miracles and healing declared for the earth.

In centuries long past, He was born the lowliest of Kings. Now raised to life, He reigns unmatched, to restore our dreams, heal hearts, establish health and defeat darkness. He is:

The King of Kings
Lion of Judah
Bright and Morning Star

Prince of Peace
Emmanuel

He is Jesus.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. —Matthew 11:28

 

Jesus, you are my hope and my future. Thank you for your humble beginnings and your victory at the cross. I ask you to come into my heart and rule in my life. I ask you to forgive my failures and offenses and I choose to forgive others. Today, I receive the gift of eternal life. I am a new creation and receive salvation through the Holy Spirit. In Your name, Jesus. AMEN

*****

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Advent - Jesus Came to Bring us Life!

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So here we all are. The week before Christmas with still lots to do. Work to finish off, shopping, cooking, cleaning, wrapping, travelling and hosting just to name a few things. It’s exhausting just reading that list.

Besides all of this we may have the added stress of having family staying with us (we do) and/or going to stay with family. A quick tip, delegate things. Don’t try to do it all. Engage everyone in the doing. Yes, this can be a struggle and frankly I’m preaching this as much to myself as anyone. Because sometimes people don’t follow instructions well or try to take over.

Breathe, Ian, breathe.

Abundant Life

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 NKJV)

We all know this verse. At Christmas both parts of the verse are very relevant. The enemy will do everything to wreck Christmas. But. But. Jesus came to give us life and an abundance of it. Oh, how easy it is for us to forget especially when the stress levels are rising.

For many of us Christmas can bring back many sad memories of loss and grief. And because it’s Christmas we tend to feel those emotions even stronger. May I encourage you not to try and block them out. Let those feelings come. And when they do picture Jesus standing with you. Holding you. Grieving and crying with you. Feeling those same emotions.

Hold onto the truth that our Lord was born on Christmas Day so we could have life! An abundant life! With Him.

He arrived in a world that was in chaos. A world that was desperate for the promised Messiah. After 400 years many would have given up.

He arrived in a war zone. The supernatural war was intense.

He arrived in a time when the Romans held an iron grip on society.

He arrived ... so you and I could have … life. In abundance.

Cherish Jesus this Christmas. Cherish your family and friends.

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”’ (Numbers 6:24-26 NKJV)

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS

*****

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Christmas Blessing For Your Dinner Table

Merry Christmas SUMite Family,

My heart is deeply moved for all of you. I realize that this time of year and Christmas day, especially can create in us dreams and expectations about how we want the holiday to unfold. I know that I often felt disappointment, anger, frustration when it didn’t follow the idea I held in my heart.

Please hold the day loosely and before the Father in surrendered prayer. Realize that things will not go exactly as you hoped. And you may attend Christmas Eve service alone or a family member changes how you wanted the day to play out.

I want to give you some tools to use to walk through this day with peace and love.

Start by blessing yourself with peace. We are to model the life of Jesus, right? He blessed. Remember the sermon on the Mount? The Bible says to bless and do not curse. (Romans 12:14)

Just this morning I found myself struggling with a million things, a long to-do list, spiritual unrest (I’ll share that story later), emotional unrest. I was driving and frustrated with every motorist in front of me who was obviously moving waaaaay too slow, when the Holy Spirit said, “Bless yourself.” So immediately I said the following and I give this gift to you as well. It works. It really does:

(Say aloud) I bless myself with peace. I bless myself with peace. I bless myself with peace. (Immediately, my shoulders relaxed, and I felt the tension drain from my body and soul.) I bless myself with the attributes of heaven; peace, joy and goodness. I know that I am loved. Lynn, Jesus loves you. Lynn, Jesus loves you. Lynn, Jesus loves you. I bless the motorists around me with peace. I bless my home with peace. I bless my kids. I bless my husband. I love you Jesus. I love you Jesus. Holy Spirit fill my car. Fill my heart. Empower me to walk in your grace in this hour. Thank you, Jesus. I love you.

I want to offer you something else to ponder this season. Perhaps you can take this blessing to others. The power of blessing can change years of hurt. When I pray with people on the phone or in a Freedom Prayer session, we always come to a place where we bless those we are forgiving. We ask Jesus to bless them with what they need. And usually these people we have forgiven need a lot. So, bless them in your prayer time. Forgive and then bless.

To take this blessing a step further, at the dinner table, perhaps, you can say the blessing for the food. Or you can walk around the table and touch each shoulder and bless them with words of affirmation. Take advantage of this time when hearts are tender and share what you see as their potential.

For example, I would say something like this over Mike: I bless you today because you are a man of integrity. You are an amazing father. I bless you because you give of your heart to me and our children, and grandchildren. I bless you to be recognized at work for your long hours. Your ability to problem solve. I bless you to be respected and liked by your clients, and I bless you that bosses will love you. I bless you because you have loved me well. I bless you with the love of Jesus.

For my daughter: I bless you today because you have a heart of kindness. I bless you because you deeply care about orphans. I bless you today because you apply yourself to attain the goals set before you. I bless you with greater experiences of love with Jesus. I bless you because you are a loyal and true friend. I bless you because you carry a servant heart. I bless you to walk fully in all the Father has prepared for you. I bless you with the love of Jesus today.

These are short blessings and perhaps you can speak them out, perhaps you can only pray them in your prayer time. But, bless your family in this season. It may change the entire day, month and the years ahead.

My friend, Pam Farrel, wrote her blessing out one year and gave it to her father at Christmas, who was an alcoholic for her entire childhood. She grew up in a mismatched home. He wept. She wept. He began to ask her questions about Jesus in the months following. He gave his heart to Christ and that was the last Christmas he had on this earth.

OH, BLESS and do not curse. Love and let Jesus shine in you. Give Jesus your expectations and let Him overwhelm you with His surprises.

I love you SUMites. I truly LOVE you.

Taking the week off from here. See you after Christmas. Love, Lynn

Church Merry Christmas

*****

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THRIVE in your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage and raise your children to faith. Our books are filled with practical experience and Biblical advice. -click or tap the photo-

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Advent - God of Surprises

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I sat chatting with my publisher. We’d only just met face to face for the first time and here we sat, an Englishman and an Aussie, having a cup of tea (as in hot) in a café in a Nashville hotel. We were attending a Christian Writers Conference, he prospecting for new content and I hoping he’d give me an update on my manuscript that I’d sent through to his employer three months previous.

Unfortunately, Tony knew nothing about my manuscript. He was now a contractor to the business and so wasn’t involved in the day-to-day. I thought we’d end up having a nice chat about nothing in particular until he quickly changed the subject with the question: “Have you thought of writing non-fiction?” (for those of you who don’t know I write fiction).

My heart jumped a little. I’d come to the conference having played around with an idea for a non-fiction project to discuss with some of my writing friends and one in particular, our very own Dineen Miller. But I didn’t plan on pitching it, as this was a fiction conference so I naively thought who’s going to be interested in non-fiction? Well, Tony was.

Not being prepared, I babbled out an idea and it was clear to both Tony and I that all I had was a general concept. He kindly agreed to my suggestion of sending him a proposal in the next month.

As soon as I finished with Tony I sought out Dineen and with much excitement shared what happened.

I’ve attended two of these conferences now and both times the Lord has surprised me.

Mary

We’re all familiar with the story in Luke 1. Last week we looked at Gabriel surprising Zechariah with the news of a baby. In verses 26-38, Gabriel appears a second time to a poor Galilean peasant girl. Most commentators believe Mary was 13 or 14 years old. It was relatively common in those times for girls of this age to be married and pregnant and I’ve always loved the innocence of Mary’s question to Gabriel: “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (v34 ESV)

This was only the first of a lifetime of surprises for Mary. God turned this girl’s life upside down in an instant.

Mary and Elizabeth

The surprises continue. And we’re still in Chapter 1. Mary’s now pregnant and she visits her cousin, Elizabeth who is now almost six months pregnant.

“and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit ”” (v40-42 ESV)

The babe inside Elizabeth, ie, John, leaped when Mary greeted Elizabeth. The spiritual electricity is hot. The baby senses the presence of the Messiah. And then Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit! Wow.

After this initial Holy Spirit-charged greeting, Mary, we’re told remained with Elizabeth for about three months. (v56) Here we have a 60-year-old woman, six months pregnant, with her fourteen-year-old cousin who was in her first trimester. Both women no doubt supported each other in very practical ways through their respective pregnancies. Just imagine some of their conversations! 

Can we presume Mary was present at the birth of John? Did she assist in the birth? Did she hear Zechariah speak his first words after being mute for nine months?

And then Mary went home. With a baby bump. Surprising her betrothed, their families and communities. I expect Mary would have been dreading that day of departure. 

How has God surprised you recently?

It didn’t take long for more surprises. Chapter 2 starts by telling us that the Romans are planning a census and everyone needed to go to their own towns to register. Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem “the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David” (v4) only for Mary to soon go into labour then giving birth to Jesus in a barn because the inn was full due to the influx of people registering.

The Messiah! Born in a barn? Another surprise.

As we journey closer to Christmas, now only 14 days away, may we all be surprised by our Lord. May we all have expectant hearts as we keep our eyes on Him.

When was the last time the Lord surprised you? It would be lovely for us all to share in each other’s surprises by adding them in the comments. I trust this will fill us with even more hope as we wait upon the Lord in this season of Advent.

Grace and peace,

*****

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THRIVE in your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage and raise your children to faith. Our books are filled with practical experience and Biblical advice. -click or tap the photo-

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Advent - Sharing the Longing

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One Bible story that I keep coming back to each Advent season is the one that features Zechariah and Elizabeth. I hadn’t spent a lot of time reflecting upon it until a few years ago when I began to observe Advent.

Most of you will know their story is briefly told in Luke 1 before Mary’s story. I’d encourage you to read it again (v5-25) and as we’ve done in the past read it meditatively. Perhaps listen to it and put yourself into the story. Imagine you are Zechariah or Elizabeth or one of the crowd and see what the Spirit reveals to you.

Longing

This couple was probably in their late 50’s or early 60’s. He was a respected Jewish priest and would have been highly thought of within society. However, even though holding an elevated position in society they were probably looked down upon.

Why? Scripture tells us the reason: 

“But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.” (v7)

Because child bearing and, particularly a son, were so significant in those times, Elizabeth was most likely not recognised and she would have carried great shame.

Besides the shame there would have been a deep deep longing. For a child. The preceding verse describes both as being blameless before the Lord. But still no child. Imagine their heartache, the number of answered prayers that had come from both of their mouths over perhaps forty-plus years.

We too experience a similar longing. For our spouses who don’t know the Lord yet. And the different life we might lead as a Christian couple. No more shying away, no more hiding in the background, no more missed opportunities, and no more sitting alone in church.

Astonishment and Doubt

Zechariah has an experience of a lifetime. He is fortunate to be the name drawn to have the honour of burning incense in to the temple of the Lord. This would have been a great day for him. 

And then he meets an angel. Not any angel. Gabriel, “who stands in the presence of God.” That angel. Many would have fainted I suspect … his presence would have been terrifying, bewildering and just weird.

The news Zechariah receives is astonishing. After all these years of waiting and longing, answered prayer, his dearest Elizabeth would bear … a son. And not just any son; but one that “will be great in the sight of the Lord.”

Hallelujah.

Zechariah is so astonished that he questions Gabriel. I think we all would under similar circumstances. And interestingly, Mary a few verses later, asks almost the identical question when Gabriel shares with her. (“Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” v34)

Doubt is part of the human condition. It is nothing to be ashamed of nor does it turn God away from us. He understands. Expressing our doubts to Him is okay. He wants us to share our doubts with Him. We only have to read the Psalms to see how David doubted.

Intercession by others

“And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.” (v10)

It’s easy to miss this verse. While Zechariah is in the temple, a multitude is praying. For him. Probably for Elizabeth. For their situation.

No doubt our couple had shared with many their sadness, their longing and yearning for a child. God doesn’t call us to journey alone. In seasons of doubt being able to share our situations can be beneficial not just to ourselves but those we share it with. When was the last time we shared our sadness about our situation with another? For most of the last twenty years, I wouldn’t say much at all unless directly asked. Recently, I mentioned it to someone in one of my prayer groups. And his first response was “that must be tough.” To which I nodded and said, “yep, it is.”

“Naming the ache of our yearnings is indeed faithful. It opens wide the gift of receiving and embracing the prayers of others.” (Enuma Okoro)

We’re blessed having this community where we can share our yearning and be praying for each other. Lynn, our ever faithful leader, a few weeks ago encouraged us to leave our spouses name in the comments so she could pray for each of us as couples. And I understand there is some wonderful sharing in the Facebook group.

If you are feeling particular sadness due to a longing in your heart or loneliness as Christmas approaches please share with us in the comments below so we can love over you with our prayers.

I had thought I’d write more on the next part of the story but I realise I’ve gone long enough so I'll leave it to next time.

Grace and peace, dear friends.

*****

Share your voice, heart and love in the comments. 

THRIVE in your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage and raise your children to faith. Our books are filled with practical experience and Biblical advice. -click or tap the photo-

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Advent - a Season to Remember and to Anticipate

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We got the call that our son and his wife had left for the hospital. Our excitement increased thinking the next time we hear from them they will share the wonderful news of becoming parents for the first time. And we’d be grandparents. Yay! We went to bed believing we’d wake to receive the news.

Morning came. Still in labour.

Lunchtime. Still going.

Staying focused on anything else was pretty difficult. The anticipation was thrilling. Words of encouragement for our son as he worried for the love of his life as she so bravely persevered.

Evening came. All was quiet.

We hoped and prayed for news and that they wouldn’t enter into a second night of labour.

Just after dinner, the text arrived. How our hearts jumped into our throats.

A son. A healthy boy. And mom is doing well after such a long pre-labour and labour. Oh, and new dad is coping too. Almost nine months they had waited for this moment. A moment they’ll never forget and cherish for as long as they live.

Such a blessing. Moses Maxwell. I am the grandfather of Moses! Ha.

Remembrance and Anticipation

Most of us have been there. For many, it’s a fairly recent experience. For others like me, it’s now twenty-plus years since our last children were born. But they are still moments that we can recall vividly.

I reflected often about my two birth experiences during my son and daughter-in-law’s pregnancy. I remembered as I anticipated the birth of their child.

Advent commences this Sunday (3 December). Advent is a time of waiting. The name Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming” or “arrival.” Beginning each year on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, Advent commemorates the birth of Jesus and also anticipates His return. As Ann Voskamp says we are “perpetual Advent people” waiting on Christ’s return.

During Advent we both remember and anticipate. We remember when Jesus became man and chose to live as one of us. We don’t just celebrate that He came, but also why He came.

We also anticipate His promised return. At Christmas we celebrate Jesus, His birth, but also that He will come again to make all things new.

“Jesus Christ has come, and He is coming again. This is the heart of Advent.” (He Reads Truth)

The Branch Gives us Hope

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;


    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1-2)

Advent is all about hope. In the who is coming.

We can believe in that hope. Because He did come 2,000 years ago on that Christmas morn, born in a food trough, son to a teenage mom and her husband.

We can believe in that hope. Because He has come to us. He is in us and we are in Him.

We can believe in that hope. Because He has told us He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5). Even when our beloved doesn’t know Him.

Christmas can be a tough season for we SUMites because we choose to celebrate Jesus and not Santa. We pop off to church on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day, alone.

But remember Jesus understands loneliness. He understands being alone. He experienced it, himself. He understands rejection because He lived it.

He understands us. Really, truly! Because He has chosen each one of us.

Choose to remember Him when the enemy throws the darts of loneliness at you, when he tries to take away your joy in the One we celebrate.

I hope you are able to spend some time in the next few weeks reflecting on the hope of Advent. On Jesus. Allow His Words to “dwell in your richly.” Join me over these next four weeks as I share some more on this wonderful season of … remembering and anticipating.

Wishing all of my SUMite friends a blessed Advent season full of childlike hope and anticipation.

Grace and peace,

*****

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THRIVE in your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage and raise your children to faith. Our books are filled with practical experience and Biblical advice. -click or tap the photo-

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Need A Gift For Your Small Group, Bible Study Ladies, Special Friend?

I was on a walk-n-pray and God came up with this idea. Really!

Every holiday season, as a Bible study leader, I would give a small gift to each of the ladies in my group at Christmas. I would give a gift to my friends at church and my neighbors, friends who I do life with. It was always a struggle to come up with a great gift and no go bankrupt.

May I offer you a suggestion. You Are Loved, Bible study and Coloring book

YAL Book Pencils Holiday II 2017

This is a short, 24, page, fully illustrated, and written Bible study by our own, Dineen Miller. And right now through the end of November, you can order it for only $9.99. Add a box of colored pencils that you can pick up cheap at a discount store for .99 cents, tie a bow and add an ornament. Awesomeness.

YAL Book Pencils Holiday 2017

I would love to receive this gift! Now think about who you know would like to receive this gift from you this year? 

I put together this bundle below and it totaled $13. Add in ribbon and the postage and they are about $15 . A truly unique and faith-based gift for Christmas. I may give some of these to the women pastors at my church and my friends at Christmas Dessert. I may even send one to Dineen for Christmas. -just kiddin'.

YAL Wrapped 2017

If you want to order the books, click on the link below. This will take you to PayPal. Order the number you need and I will get them in the mail. 

Gang, I'm not so great at wrapping and decorating, so that is your part. Don't forget to buy the pencils. 

I feel such a beauty and excitement in this season....
I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES. DO YOU? 

You are Loved Coloring Bible Study
For a limited time only $9.99 

<<<<----- click here. Hugs, Lynn

*****

Share your voice, heart and love in the comments. 

THRIVE in your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage and raise your children to faith. Our books are filled with practical experience and Biblical advice. -click or tap the photo-

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Spending Time in the Secret Place

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It’s fast approaching the Christmas season when life can get especially busy. In addition, for we in mismatched marriages can have extra challenges as a result of a desire to intentionally reflect on the reason for the season. Jesus. Whether it’s attending gatherings with the church girls (or blokes), the various services our Church’s hold or even decorating our houses with symbols of our faith, we can all get a little self-conscious of doing things that our partners may not enjoy. And not to mention that we may be away from the house more often which can cause stress.

Often due to our busyness our time spent with the Lord may wane. There are only so many hours in the day, right?

The Secret Place

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6 NKJV)

 The Lord loves spending time with us. Often we think due to life’s demands spending time with our partners and family is the best solution, if only to keep the peace. But I’ve come to realize in fact that the best option is to spend time in the secret place.

“All fruitfulness flows from intimacy.” (Heidi Baker)

Check out the second sentence in the verse above: “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” The Message says “… and you will begin to sense his grace.” 

Reward. Grace. Yes, please.

I know this might be hard to read especially if home is a bit of a battlefield at the moment but I’ve learnt (and I’m sure Lynn, Dineen and others would also vouch for it too) that it’s in experiencing that intimacy with Jesus that peace does indeed come in our houses. Sometimes quite miraculously.

But the reward and/or grace shouldn’t be our motivation for spending time with God. Rather intimacy with Him. To know Him better and His deep deep love for us.

Listening to the Word

I mentioned in my comment to Dineen’s post last week that I sensed the Lord was drawing me back to His Word. My Bible study has been a little bit all over the shop in the past few months and I sensed the Lord saying to me to spend quality time in it. In John, specifically.

But before I dived into John I started reading a book on Lectio Divina that is a practice of enhanced listening and receptivity to what the Lord wants you to hear when reading His Word. I don’t want to spend time discussing the practice but more encourage you to read this passage from Hosea. Slowly. And mindfully. And receptively. And meditatively. With open hears as well as eyes.

Firstly, get somewhere quiet. Allow yourself 15 minutes, longer if you can. I appreciate those of you with little kiddies even that small amount of time can be difficult to get but I hope you might be able to grab it somehow.

Settle your heart. Take a few deep breaths so you can slow your mind down.

Ask the Lord to come close.

And read these verses twice over. Ideally, out loud. And slowly. And listen. What words jump out at you? Don’t worry if nothing does. The Lord works differently with all of us.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
    I will lead her into the wilderness
    and speak tenderly to her.
15 There I will give her back her vineyards,
    and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
    as in the day she came up out of Egypt.

16 “In that day,” declares the Lord,
    “you will call me ‘my husband’;
    you will no longer call me ‘my master.’

I will betroth you to me forever;
    I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
    in love and compassion.
20 I will betroth you in faithfulness,
    and you will acknowledge the Lord. (Hosea 2:14-16,19-20 NIV)

 

Now read the passage again and allow those words, phrases that grab you to fuel your imagination. Picture yourself with the Lord. Let the words speak even more deeply to you.

Share your thoughts with the Lord and if relevant connect your meditations to what’s happening in your day. Try to take your reflections with you through the day.

I hope you found this useful and I encourage you to continue the exercise with whatever your current Bible reading plan is. Perhaps reduce the number of verses you read a day and spend longer on fewer verses.

Dear loving Father, take us all further into the secret place that we might know your heart so that our lives can bring your glory. In Jesus name. Amen.

Love to read how you found it and what you heard the Lord saying to you. Please share it in the comments below if you are willing.

Grace and peace,

*****

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Fourth Week of Advent: Peace (and Christmas!)

Advent4Merry Christmas, SUMites! I’m finishing up my Advent series today, because Lynn and I will be taking next week off to have more time with our families. We love you and bless you with all the joy and gladness this season holds, dear friends. Enjoy your family, enjoy your friends and most importantly, ENJOY JESUS! He’s not only our Savior, but our very best friend and partner in this life and the one to come.

We are about to enter the fourth and final week of Advent this Sunday, my friends. I’ve included a picture of what my Advent wreath will look like this Sunday as I light all four candles. This last candle represents peace, and as the Word says, Jesus came to bring us peace. Not the peace the world offers, but His peace. 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. — John 14:27

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” — John 16:33

He overcame the world to save us and bring order to a chaotic world.

For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people. — 1 Cor. 14:33

And His covenant of peace was made long ago.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. — Isa 9:6

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you. — Isa 54:10

This is the heart of our Father God and why He sent us His Son, Jesus, to establish His kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven. And not only did He come to bring His peace, He came to dwell within us so that His peace would “live” in us. It’s part of what we receive with the Holy Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. — Gal 5:22-23

His peace resides in us. Even when we don’t “feel” that peace, we can pray for it to bubble up and fill us, my friends. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. — Phil 4:6-7

Peace is one of God’s greatest provisions that is intended to permeate every area from our personal lives to the entire world and every place in between. Our mind, heart, soul and spirit are part of that too. So often we forget to ask for it, to pray for it to well up and increase in us. During a very difficult time I learned to call on this peace and was absolutely stunned at how I could actually feel it rush in. The Spirit of God lives in us, my friends, and that Spirit, the Holy Spirit, is our Comforter. Call on Him to comfort you as much as you need!

Ornaments
Some of my favorite ornaments...

Now, the best for last. The Christ Candle. Every year I look for a candle that speaks to my heart. Usually white with some sort of design on it. I am especially enamored with Christmas trees since last Christmas and find myself drawn to them. I realized the tree is the most important part of my family traditions because it holds so much love. Nearly every ornament holds a meaning, has a story behind it, or marks a special date. And now that my girls are grown, I find those ornaments to be a precious reminder of all the love we have shared over the years. 

ChristCandleSo this year’s Christ Candle has a tree on it and will be lit on Christmas Eve and Day. For me, this candle represents the promise of hope and a future (Jer 29:11). He is the light of the world and the light of our lives. And He has even more for us for next year. I’m already praying over 2017, my friends. Praying for words and Scriptures for my family at home and here, our SUM family. He is faithful to His Word and watches over it!

SUMites, I bless you with precious moments that touch your heart, that will remind you of how God’s love is always present and will even form a new and precious memory for years to come. And I pray the glory and favor of the Lord will increase in your lives all through 2017. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:13). In the glorious name of Jesus, amen!

Merry Christmas!
Dineen

*****

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Wonder Gives Birth To.......

Please share more of your #WonderOfChristmas with me here in the comment,
Facebook or email me.

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. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. —Luke 2:9-10

Do you know what happens when we make time to notice the Wonder of our Savior? Do you know what can happen to our heart? To our soul? Do you know that fear will flee? Did you know that we are primed to learn a great deal when we begin to walk in child-like faith and notice our Savior speaking to us? Learning to notice the “wonder” is how we learn to walk in HOPE!

We learn to alk in courageous HOPE!

Hope to face a cancer diagnosis. Hope that our prodigal children will come back to faith. Hope that our almost dead marriage will live again. We learn to hope. We learn to live in a lavish, extraordinary hope because we have discovered the voice of God in our everyday life. We discover God's voice because we choose to look for the wonder.

As believers, we should be the most hopeful people in the world.

However, right now, can be a very tough season for so many people, including SUMites. But Jesus..

BUT JESUS!!!!!

His birth is our hope. His whispers of love in the dark moments, becomes our hope. His promises are true and faithful. We can hope. We can live in expectant hope. Our world needs to feel this kind of hope. We, SUMites, also need to feel this kind of hope.

There is a path for God’s people to follow that leads to everlasting hope. Hope for today, tomorrow and all eternity. That path begins with a mustard seed of faith. It grows and flourishes as we trust, pray and seek the wonder of His Kingdom.

I wonder, are filled with hope today? Do you need a voice or prayer to reach out for hope?

Share your need or your hope today in the comments. Let’ spur one another on in faith and hope as we experience the wonder of Christmas within our home here on the web. Then let’s take it to others. Let’s take Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to someone who feels hopeless.

See you in the comments. I love you. I’m so hopeful for all of you. Hope for salvations. Hope for marriages. Hope for finances. Hope for healing of our hearts, souls, bodies and hope for joy, peace and goodness. Merry Christmas. Lynn

This is a PS to this post. This morning on my walk-n-pray, I was feeling discouraged about unanswered prayers for healing. I had been praying for my grandaughter's healing. I was feeling confusion and seeking an explanation of what I may be doing wrong. Asking the Lord if I was the one blocking the healing. 

It's so interesting that I didn't get a direct reply to all my questions of how come? Yet, in the brilliant morning sun during my walk I had something extraordinary occur. I received not one, not two, but three Mylar balloons all within a few minutes of each other. Here is a photo of the first two. It was as if God was shouting to me, don't focus on what you haven't seen yet, just focus on the fact that I adore you. I adore you so much that I'm sending you a triple blessing today.

My friends, our experiences with the Lord and the answers to prayer that we DO receive MUST carry more weight than our questions! 

Today, I bless you with a triple blessing too. Everything and more that you are seeking, I'm standing with you and with our Jesus. And we will continue to contend in prayer for those things that are yet to be realized and give thanks for the many, MANY things that are miracles in our everyday life, such as Mylar balloons. In Jesus name. AMEN

Smiling balloon December 14 2016

Double Wednesay December 14 2016

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM MY HOUSE TO YOURS, HUGS, LYNN

*****

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Third Week of Advent: Love

Advent3Hello, SUMites! We’re less than two weeks away from Christmas. Can you believe that? I’m almost done with my Christmas shopping…I think. How about you? And what’s on the menu for Christmas Day? What do I need to make? Who’s coming over? Need more lights up outside. I hope my mother loves her gift…

I bet your mind is filled with thoughts like these, one after another tumbling after each other like dominoes. It’s totally normal, right? We do this every year and we go into it all with the best intentions. Doesn’t always work out perfectly, but we hope for the best.

So what’s at the heart of all that? 

Love.

We love our families and friends. We want the very best for them. And we want to enjoy them during the celebrations too. Doesn’t take much in my book. So far my favorite gift for a friend cost $3.95. Can’t wait to see the surprised delight on her face when she opens it. For me it’s an act of love that says, “I get you. I love you. I think you’re special.”

As you can see I’ve lit our third candle on the Advent Wreath—just one more to go and then I’ll be lighting the Christ candle in the middle on Christmas. I love Christmas traditions. They remind me of my childhood and my children’s childhood. And I love remembering the love that infuses those memories too. Dancing around the kitchen as we baked cookies, making a snowman together, hugs and hot cocoa—more precious acts of love.

Love is the theme for this third week of Advent. As I sat and contemplated and prayed, another stream of Scriptures come to mind. I’ve shared in the past that I’ve known since I was a small child that “love makes the world go round.” I knew love was the biggest game changer in this world, just didn’t know the source.

Now I do and I still believe in love. And as the Bible says, God is love, so I believe in God. And I believe God. The first statement defines my faith, the second defines my relationship with Him.

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. — 1 John 4:16-17 NLT

And God’s motivation has always been love, hasn’t it?

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17 NIV

Not to condemn us, but to love us. Jesus walked this earth as the embodiment of God’s love and displayed it brilliantly. With just a look, a word, a thought—people’s lives were changed, healed, restored. He’s our greatest example of how to love.

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” — Mark 10:21 NIV

My friends, He is faithful, true and loyal to the end, our Jesus. He is my inspiration. And my greatest prayer is for Him to help me love well every person He puts before me, whether at the healing rooms, at home, in a store or right her online. This my goal!

Let love be your highest goal! — 1 Cor. 14:1 NLT 

I love you, SUMites. You are fierce in your love, faith and faithfulness. You walk a path many will never understand. But God does. He gets you. He loves you. He’s thinks your super special. 

Merry Christmas, my friends. May the love of God be more real to you right now than ever before. May He fill the stockings of your heart with His overflowing gift of love. In the name of Jesus, amen!

Hugs!
Dineen

*****

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#WonderOfChristmas - Who Needs Peace?

I received so many photos and tags on Social Media as our community captures the #WonderOfChristmas. Look at this one from Patty.

Patty's Son Macy's Train

Her son admiring the train set up at Macy’s. Priceless

December can be so amazing and also hectic. I wonder how many of you need peace on this Friday?

Jesus prince of peaceI continue to hear Jesus, the Prince of Peace, call out to each of us to catch the moments of wonder in our lives this December. Just as Patty’s young son marvels at the window display, Jesus is whispering to us, “Take notice of the beauty in the sky, in the clouds, in the sunsets and sunrises. Do you see the sparkle of the tree and how your face gleams in the reflection of an ornament? Your glorified face gleaming is how I see you ever day. Do you sense the angels that are in your home? Take a moment to read My story of my birth to your children and allow them to feel my love. Do you know that I’m enamored by you and I’m whispering words of love and encouragement to you all day long? Take in My wonder. Listen to my voice. Pause and allow me to dust you with golden peace that comes from heaven.”

 

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2016-12-08/f861471f-4ccb-4375-a4e1-ad03bef62615.png
From JB (Monday's comments): Decorating the tree...and the only ornament to shine brightly? The cross on the lower right.

My friends, do you know what happens when we catch the wonder of Christmas? Something amazing unfolds. Something that can move us out of fear. Something happens when we catch the face of Jesus in others. The miraculous can occur and as believers we receive a gift that the rest of the world can’t seem to grasp. Do you know what that is? Well tune in on Tuesday and I will share where Jesus is leading us this December.

Please share more of your #WonderOfChristmas with me here in the comment, Facebook or email me.

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. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. —Luke 2:9-10

 

From this week posted on Facebook: CHOSEN!!!! Randomly I dropped my name in a drawing on Saturday. Don't know why. I picked up the gift card yesterday. I LOVE December. #WonderOfChristmas
#Steinmart Thank you!!!
feeling festive.  

Winner Steinmart Gift Card

*****

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Second Week of Advent: JOY!

IMG_5524Hello, SUM Family! We’re moving closer and closer to Christmas, and like you, I want to be intentional in enjoying the details of Christmas. Yesterday morning I went into my prayer room to pray for my own family and our SUM family here. I continue to pray and declare Jeremiah 24:7 over our spouses and am praying the Scriptures written on the beams of this house over you. They are such good words!

JOY is also a very good word, my friends. And it’s the theme of the second week of Advent. As I searched for the word JOY in the Bible, I was struck by several verses that spoke of JOY. Then the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to see a beautiful flow and connection in these Scriptures. 

And connection is so instrumental to our relationship with God. As you can see in my picture I’ve lit the second candle. I love taking a picture each week and sharing it with my daughters, which helps create a more intimate connection between us for Christmas as the days draw closer to their arrival. I love that we can share these traditions despite the 3,000 miles that separate us. It closes the gap.

And that is what Jesus did when He entered this world—closed the gap between God and His people and connected us together as His body, the church. What’s more, Jesus arrived with the declaration of great JOY!

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. — Luke 2:10 

Jesus entered the world as joy and to bring us joy. Joy is the status quo in Heaven. Isn’t that an amazing thought? 

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. — Luke 15:7

Our intended state of being is meant to be joyful. Like He taught us to pray, “on earth as it is in Heaven,” Jesus came to give us His joy, the JOY of the Lord to strengthen and uphold us.

While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God. — Luke 24:51-53

And here’s the connection from the cradle to the cross, my friends. It is rich with God’s love and our Savior’s heart for us.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. — Hebrews 12:1-3 

As Jesus is our joy, we are His joy—the joy set before Him as He endured the cross. In other words, as our Savior suffered and died, He had us on His mind and heart. The very same very reason He entered this world as a helpless child to save us.

I pray this resonates deeper into your spirit than my words can convey. It is a full circle story of love and salvation that is almost incomprehensible in its brilliant perfection. We could spend a lifetime and beyond learning to understand it—and that’s exactly what we get to do!

My friends, as I shared, I went into prayer, seeking the Father’s heart for us now. I waited to hear Him yet only sensed to share this beautiful picture of JOY. But as I sat down to write, the Holy Spirit’s voice broke through and this is what I heard:

He who is faithful has said a good word.

Another Scripture search ensued as I knew I’d heard this before but couldn’t remember exactly where. The Scriptures I found are the very same verses that God has been showing me over the last year or so. I was surprised and delighted to see what He’d spoken to me at separate times come together in one profound word. So like the JOY of Christ’s birth and death…

SUMites, soak these in and apply them to our SALVATION word and promise and to any other promise God has given you.

The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. — 1 Thes. 5:25

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. — Heb 10:23

For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. — Psalm 33:4

The Lord said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.” — Jer 1:12

My friends, He is faithful to His Word. He watches diligently to perform it.

And what struck me most powerfully in this word to us, is that it is past tense. Our Lord has “said a good word.” In my spirit I sense that to mean “it is done.” Just like His journey from the cradle led to the cross and His words…

It is finished. 

It is done.

We can rejoice!

We have JOY!

Thank You, Lord Jesus, that we are the JOY set before you. That Your JOY is intended to be ours and our natural state of heart, mind, soul and spirit. We rejoice in You. We rejoice in the promises You have given us and have already fulfilled. Even the ones we are waiting to see fully manifest here on earth as You have said a good word in Heaven. In the name of Jesus, amen!

I love you, SUM family, so much. I am overcome by the Lord’s heart and love for us. I pray you are too.
Dineen

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#WonderOfChristmas -SUMites This Is Our Season

Hello SUMite Nation,

I’m going to save the Emotional Healing study for the new year. I think I need to have several uninterrupted weeks for this topic. It will be powerful.

Today, I want to share with you what the Lord is speaking to me for the month of December. And it started with a phone call to speak at my church.

Next Sunday I will be speaking at our Women’s event, Christmas Dessert. It is a great honor and I’m humbled to be asked. Truly! In preparation I went on a walk-n-pray and I asked Jesus this question, “Jesus, what do you want me to share with your girls?”

Immediately I heard Jesus say, “Lynn, tell them about Me. Tell them what it’s like to live an ordinary day with me. Tell them how to see the wonder of this season where we celebrate My birth. Tell them that I’m near to them. Even in the hard stuff. Tell them I’m filled with affection for them. Tell them I think they are funny and I laugh at their goofiness and jokes. I like to watch football with them and sit in the kitchen with them while they are making dinner. It is my favorite thing to just live life with them.”

“Lynn, tell them about me and tell them about the life we live together and tell them this wondrous life is for them as well.”

So, my friends, after I wiped the tears from my eyes, the Holy Spirit began to download what I’m to share. And as I began to organize these thought, Jesus said, Tell my SUMite family about this too. I want this kind of life for them this season.

I hope it’s okay with all of you if I share some of the wonders of this season with the hope that you will experience Jesus, the Jesus of today, in a new and wondrous way.

Okay?

One of the first things the Lord began to share with me was to take time to see the “wonder.” How do you see wonder? What is wonder?

Wonder: a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.

A surprise, something beautiful, unexpected…. This is exactly what I believe Jesus is asking us to notice this December. It’s the small things that bring a smile to our face. It’s the unexpected beauty that shows up in some way. It’s a gift of heaven.

He wants us to experience His love this Christmas through child-like faith. Neat!!!!!!!!!!

So for the next several weeks I have a challenge. I want you to find something wondrous every day in your life. I want you to take a photo of it or write it down. Post it to your social media with the hashtag #WonderOfChristmas and tag me on FB or Twitter, or Instagram and/or post to our FB page and best of all post some of them in the comments here.

We are going to do something with these wonders later in the month. And I promise you that Jesus is going to reveal something miraculous through this endeavor. But I’m saving that for the Big surprise later.

Okay, I’ve already started and here are a few of my post #WonderOfChristmas.

Sunday, December 4: Early Sunday morning walk n pray. The flocks of geese have returned to the valley to winter. Splendor watch and listening as the fly over. #WonderOfChristmas

December 2: Facebook

Christmas unwrapped dogsCame home last night to Christmas morning-post unwrapped. The dogs had a blast under the tree while we were gone. #WonderOfChristmas. Now off to re-wrap everything.feeling festive.

December 1: Facebook

Christmas beautiesI love the wonder of this time of year. And on my walk n pray these beauties greeted me. #WonderOfChristmas

Okay, now it’s your turn. And as we travel this adventure this week. I’m going to share with you what Jesus asked of me. Are you ready? Stay tuned and ask Jesus today to show you the “wonder of Christmas.”

I love all of you so much. My heart is so full of anticipation. I’m so full of expectation that this Christmas is going to be special and an intimate time with Jesus, for each of us.

Praying a blessing of love, joy, peace, goodness and HOPE. In Jesus name. AMEN

*****

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The Hope in Waiting … reflections on Advent

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Photo courtesy of 9comeback/FreeDigitalPhotos.nety/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There’s something both exciting and tremendously nerve-wracking when an author presses the send button on the email that whisks their latest manuscript off to a publisher. Exciting? The project we’ve been working on has now reached a point of completion. In my case that project had consumed a lot of my mind space for the past three years.

Nerve-wracking? Will they like it? Enough to publish it? What if they don’t? What will I do then?

It’s a moment that is soon forgotten.

And then we wait.

And wait some more.

A few months later an email arrives outlining your manuscript is still in the game. Being reviewed by some others. They liked it sufficiently to pass onto others. Great.

And then we wait.

And wait some more.

As I shared with a writing friend recently: the Lord's got it in His big capable hands. Waiting helps us lean on Him more. And that's what I've tried to do. Keep writing, keep hoping, keep knowing He's looking after the situation irrespective of whether I receive a positive response or not.

We are People who Wait

Authors wait a lot. It’s part of the fabric of being an author. I expect it’s one of the reasons self-publishing has become so popular: the author takes greater control over the end product and can manage the timeline.

We SUMites wait. We know all those feelings that come with waiting. The frustration, angst, discouragement, hopelessness. We know the drill because it’s part of our lives. We wait for our beloved to receive the revelation that Jesus is their Lord. For some of us we’ve waited a long time and may continue to.

Advent is a time of waiting. The name Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming” or “arrival.” Beginning each year on the fourth Sunday before Christmas (last Sunday), Advent commemorates the birth of Jesus and also anticipates His return. As Ann Voskamp says we are “perpetual Advent people” waiting on Christ’s return.

The Branch Gives us Hope

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;


    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1-2)

Advent is all about hope. In who is coming.

We can believe in that hope. Because He did come 2,000 years ago on that Christmas morn, born in a food trough, son to a teenage mom and her husband.

We can believe in that hope. Because He has come to us. He is in us and we are in Him.

We can believe in that hope. Because He has told us He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5). Even when our beloved doesn’t know Him.

Christmas can be a tough season for we SUMites because we choose to celebrate Jesus and not Santa. We pop off to church on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day, alone.

But remember Jesus understands loneliness. He understands being alone. He understands rejection. He understands our SUMite situations.

He understands us. Really, truly! Because He has chosen each one of us.

Choose to remember Him when the enemy throws the darts of loneliness at you, when he tries to take away your joy in the One we celebrate. Look for the Presence of Jesus in the small moments, in the interruptions, when out shopping, wrapping those presents and chatting with your neighbour.

I hope you are able to spend some time in the next few weeks reflecting on the hope of Advent. On Jesus. Allow His Words to “dwell in your richly.”

Wishing all of my SUMite friends a blessed Advent season full of childlike hope and anticipation.

Grace and peace,

*****

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My Unexpected Christmas

933344_i_love_youHappy (almost) New Year, my dear friends! I feel like I've been on a long trip and haven't seen my family in a long time. And now I've come back home. I've missed you! My shoulder surgery went well, and I've started physical therapy. This whole process has been much more difficult and painful than I anticipated, which has made working at my desk and typing next to impossible. But day by day I'm healing and am able to do more. Please be patient with me as I ease back into writing here and please know how much your prayers and words have helped encourage and sustain me.

What I want to share with you today is about what God did in all this process. The day before my surgery I sat in my quiet time, sad and a bit fearful. Not about my surgery but about Christmas. I was struggling with being apart from my daughters for the first time at Christmas and trying to figure out how to handle it all without diminishing my husband's Christmas by making him think I couldn't enjoy the holiday with just him. I hope that makes sense. 

As I sat there praying, God whispered to my heart, "Give Me Christmas, Dineen."

I realized in that moment that I was still trying to "salvage" Christmas, to cling to what I knew and make it work in spite of the distance between us and our girls, my surgery and recovery, and my daughter's heart issues. I didn't know what God had in mind or what Christmas would look like in His hands, but I said yes. "Take it, Lord. It's all Yours."

After the surgery I was surprised by how little I could do and thankful we'd managed to get our shopping done before hand. I could do little more than sit on the couch with my right shoulder strapped to my Iceman (a icing system). I was so grateful to have my husband's selfless attention to take care of me as well as my mother and mother-in-law who helped as well. Not exactly easy to do for this girl who's so used to taking care of everyone else and herself.

And God worked in and through it all. Smoothed my mama-worries over my girls having a good Christmas—they worked our their own plans to be together and did the same traditions we always did together. We were able to FaceTime (love technology!) on Christmas Eve and open our gifts together.

I was able to be present at the infamous cake baking day the women in my husband's family do each year, even though they didn't let me do much (probably a good thing!). And Christmas with my husband's family was warm and fun. 

It was not at all the Christmas I expected—one I attempted to hold together myself and lived in fear of it falling apart. Instead it was full of love, care and a deeper closeness to my husband that never expected would happen in such circumstances.

My friends, I am the first to admit I like the safe route. I like to know the outcome ahead of time, because it gives me a sense of security. I have a feeling many of you can relate to that as well. 

But God doesn't work that way, does He? He wants to be our security and place of safety so that we rely and trust in Him instead of ourselves, our own abilities and our circumstances. I do find it challenging to live in that place with Him, but I am learning—though quite painfully at times (hee hee)—to let go and trust God.

Here's a verse that I've been pondering this Christmas season and holding close to my heart and limited abilities at the moment.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. — 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NLT)

SUMites, that last part of the verse brings me great reassurance that even when we think we fall short or we haven't quite got things right, our attempts are not in vain. Every single prayer, act of service, word of encouragement, etc. is significant. We may not see the results but they are there none-the-less. God knows. God sees. That's what counts. He knows our hearts no matter what the outcome—or lack of one—may appear to be. He has the full picture and puts the pieces together as only He can.

God called me to let go of what I knew so He could so something new in me. My greatest lesson this Christmas was that it didn't have to be perfect or according to my expectations to be a great Christmas. How about you? What did God show you during this most precious time of the year? I love you, my SUM family. I'm so glad to be back here and look forward to your comments.
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There Once Was A Man Who Didn't Believe

6a00d83451ee9f69e20105365c5148970b-piThere was once a man who didn't believe in God, and he didn't hesitate to let others know how he felt about religion and religious holidays, like Christmas. His wife, however, did believe, and she raised their children to also have faith in God and Jesus, despite his disparaging comments.

One snowy Christmas Eve, his wife was taking their children to a Christmas Eve service in the farm community in which they lived. She asked him to come, but he refused.

"That story is nonsense!" he said. "Why would God lower Himself to come to Earth as a man? That's ridiculous!" So she and the children left, and he stayed home.

A while later, the winds grew stronger and the snow turned into a blizzard. As the man looked out the window, all he saw was a blinding snowstorm. He sat down to relax before the fire for the evening. Then he heard a loud thump. Something had hit the window. Then another thump. He looked out, but couldn't see more than a few feet.

When the snow let up a little, he ventured outside to see what could have been beating on his window. In the field near his house he saw a flock of wild geese. Apparently they had been flying south for the winter when they got caught in the snowstorm and couldn't go on. They were lost and stranded on his farm, with no food or shelter. They just flapped their wings and flew around the field in low circles, blindly and aimlessly. A couple of them had flown into his window, it seemed.

The man felt sorry for the geese and wanted to help them. The barn would be a great place for them to stay, he thought. It's warm and safe; surely they could spend the night and wait out the storm. So he walked over to the barn and opened the doors wide, then watched and waited, hoping they would notice the open barn and go inside.

image from unequalmarriage.typepad.comThe geese just fluttered around aimlessly and didn't seem to notice the barn or realize what it could mean for them. The man tried to get their attention, but that just seemed to scare them and they moved further away. He went into the house and came back out with some bread, broke it up, and made a breadcrumbs trail leading to the barn, but they still didn't catch on.

Now he was getting frustrated. He got behind them and tried to shoo them toward the barn, but they only got more scared and scattered in every direction except toward the barn. Nothing he did could get them to go into the barn where they would be warm and safe.

"Why don't they follow me?!" he exclaimed. "Can't they see this is the only place where they can survive the storm?" He thought for a moment and realized that they just wouldn't follow a human.

"If only I were a goose, then I could save them," he said out loud.

Then he had an idea. He went into barn, got one of his own geese, and carried it in his arms as he circled around behind the flock of wild geese. He then released it. His goose flew through the flock and straight into the barn - and one by one the other geese followed it to safety!

He stood silently for a moment as the words he had spoken a few minutes earlier replayed in his mind:

"If only I were a goose, then I could save them!" 

Then he thought about what he had said to his wife earlier. "Why would God want to be like us? That's ridiculous!"

Suddenly it all made sense. That is what God had done. We were like the geese - blind, lost, and perishing. God had His Son become like us so He could show us the way and save us. That was the meaning of Christmas, he realized!

As the winds and blinding snow died down, his soul became quiet and pondered this wonderful thought. Suddenly he understood what Christmas was all about, why Christ had come.

Years of doubt and disbelief vanished like the passing storm. He fell to his knees in the snow, and prayed his first prayer: 

"Thank You, God, for coming in human form to get me out of the storm!" 

~Author Unknown

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Christmas and the Spiritually Mismatched Conference

Hello SUMites:

I’ve come to realize that I’m in a struggle to keep up with holiday demands, writing and serving this community. My heart is to really be available to all of you as we work through the series on loneliness. And December is proving to be impossible to do – well, everything. So Dineen and I talked and decided that we are going to delay the series until after our week of fasting which is January 4-8, 2016. I still want to reply to all of the comments and emails and will do my best to do so.

Dineen is having surgery on her shoulder tomorrow so we have decided to take a writing break through Christmas, the end of next week. We will have a few random posts that may pop up but mostly we are going to spend some time in rest and quiet. Boy howdy, don’t we all need that.

In fact, I truly felt like the Lord impressed upon me that this Christmas needs to be protected and be a time of family, laughter, quietness and living in His Presence. So, let’s all do that.

Dineen and I will be back right after Christmas. And as usual you can bet I will be fired up about our week of fasting together as a community. Amazing breakthroughs ALWAYS occur in that week within our community. Stay tuned.

Also, we ask you to be in prayer about attending the Spiritually Mismatched Conference in January in Detroit, MI. Below is Dineen who shares her heart about the conference. Wouldn’t it be amazing to start 2016 together? And I’ve been receiving a revelation about our verse… You know our verse, 1 Corinthians 7:14. I will be talking about this and how it will change your prayers, thoughts and attitude about your marriage, spouse and home. Truly.

Have a blessed Christmas. Pray for the Lord to bring peace and joy to your home. I pray you are filled with His holiness and that this Christmas takes on a special meaning as we consider the miracle of the birth, death and resurrection of our Savior. Hugs, Lynn

 

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The Promise of Christmas

IMG_4705One of my favorite traditions of Christmas is the advent wreath. I first observed this at our international church while living in Switzerland and fell in love with the candles and their meaning. Every year I’ve used or remade our wreath, searching for just the right candles each year.

But this year wound up a little different than I expected (there’s that word again). I’d actually prayed a few times over the years for a really nice wreath and candle holder. This year I wanted to find something different. These were simple desires I thought about and left unspoken.

And this is the year that Abba surprised me with a new one. The most interesting part of this story is that I wasn’t the one to find it. My husband did. How’s that for some Christmas humor and delight?

We saw this candle holder in a store and both loved it. I saw it only in the light of a decorative piece for our home. To my surprise, my husband pointed out how well it would work for an advent wreath too! Even the store clerk seemed surprised that my husband mad the suggestion.

My friends, I cherish this new piece in our home not just for it’s beauty and design, but for it’s meaning. The more I study it, the more meanings the Holy Spirit shows me. Now I will look at this candle holder—year round—and see the reminder of God’s love for me in a small detail and how He used my husband to bring it to my attention.

Sometimes our desires and hopes are met in the most surprising ways. I’d expected, looked in one direction. God showed me another one—one I never would have expected or thought of.

I find this faith walk lately to be a delicate balance of holding hope tightly and holding expectations very loosely. I don’t think it’s wrong to have expectations—the Bible even tells us to  wait expectantly on the Lord. The challenge is to have ones wrapped in hope and to not hold them so tightly that we miss other possibilities. God is the God of possibilities—He makes the impossible possible.

As I reread the Gospels telling of Jesus’ birth, the Holy Spirit has stopped me at the feet of Luke 1:45.

“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” 

This verse reminded me of Jesus’ words to Thomas.

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” — John 20:29 (NIV)

As believers we are asked to believe what we haven’t yet seen. To take the step of faith without proof, yet believe it will come. To persevere even when everything around us tells a different story.

Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. — Hebrews 10:36 (NLT)

This verse has taken a place in my recent journal entries and I find myself returning to it frequently. And today I noticed it precedes one of the most powerful parts of Scripture in the Bible.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. — Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)

Before the baby Jesus and our Messiah was ever birthed in the natural realm, He was prophesied and birthed in the spiritual. The Old Testament is the promise, the New Testament is the fulfillment.

Jesus is our greatest example of holding hope, persevering for its revelation (pregnancy), and waiting for its arrival (birth). Christmas is a yearly reminder of His revelations and the revelations to come. And we hold this hope not only for ourselves but for our pre-believers and our families, dear friends.

SUMites, we are blessed because believe the Lord will fulfill His promises to us. We persevere, and though at times we may falter, we continue hold hope in our hearts. 

And Jesus is that eternal hope. Merry Christmas!
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Moments of Delight and Moments of Despair

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The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.

My friends, it’s great to be back with you! I had an amazing week in New York City with my mother and dear friend Sally, who is also my son-in-love’s mother. Definitely a family trip filled with special surprises and blessings that I know came from God’s heart to delight us. And I am moved and impressed by the heart of this city and and what it has endured. There is a sense of strength and unity there.

I was profoundly moved by the 9/11 Memorial and took significant notice that majority of those around us on that particular day were from other parts of the world. They traveled to our country, to New York City, to specially see this memorial and museum. The most emotional part for us was to listen to our tour guide describe this day from her first hand experience. At the time she worked in one of the buildings behind ground zero. 

Then we were dazzled by the lights of the city and the Christmas windows at Macy’s, Tiffany’s, Saks and many others. The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center took my breath away as it stood tall and sparkled. I felt like a kid at again at the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show featuring the Rockettes and Santa Claus.
What surprised us there was the how the show concluded with the true Christmas story, the birth of Jesus, with as much beauty and detail as the rest of the show. And the audience response was outstanding.

I’m so grateful for this experience, dear friends. And yet I am about to write the most difficult part of this post. After coming home from all this excitement, I’m now facing the reality of spending this Christmas without my daughters. I truly am struggling with this, to be completely honest. I’m realizing how much I’ve loved sharing the true meaning of this holiday with my daughters and how much that filled that lonely place in my heart that we’ve been talking about here.

Several of you talked about expectations and letting them go. I believe that is part of the journey I’m on right now is to readjust my expectations of doing Christmas without my daughters with us. Just about every ornament on our tree has a story and a sentiment behind it to our family. So you can imagine how decorating the Christmas three last night without them was a teary-eyed event.

My morning walk was more like a walk and cry. LOL! I miss my girls so much. I shared that with God, pouring out my heart to Him. I know He brought us to Sarasota and has plans for us here, some of which I am watching unfold, but I was honest with Him. What I didn’t expect was how He would share His heart with me.

“Lord, this is hard. I miss my girls so much.”

As I let the words flow honestly, this is what I felt He said to me.

“Trust Me, I know that pain, that ache. For every one of my children who don’t know Me yet and aren’t walking with Me, I ache. I hurt. I long for them to come to me. Dineen, I feel your pain and even more so.”

Wow! Talk about putting things into perspective! In that moment I felt His comfort as well as a renewed fire to share His love with everyone I can in this hurting world. It didn’t diminish the ache in my heart for my girls to be with me for Christmas, dear friends, but it did comfort me to know my Papa God understands my heart and shared His with me. 

So, including the negative ones that have a way of becoming self-fulfilling, I’m letting go of all expectations for this Christmas. Except for one.

I am making room in my aching heart with the expectation for God to fill it with His presence, His comfort, His peace, and even something special. I don’t know what—I want to just let that unfold  in an unexpected delight, much the way several moments did in New York.

My friends, please know that I am praying for you and this community and I would like to thank you for your prayers for me and my family too. My youngest daughter Leslie was just diagnosed with pericarditis (inflammation around her heart) and the doctors are trying to figure it out why. I will have surgery next week on my shoulder and hope (and maybe a little expecting too) to be back to fully capacity quickly. 

I love you, my friends. I’m so thankful for you, for this community. Lynn and I marvel at our love and unity here and praise God for it. We are so thankful and grateful to be a part of your lives, especially at Christmas!

I leave you with a few more images... Hugs! ~Dineen

 

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Last piece removed from ground zero.


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One of Macy's Charlie Brown Christmas windows.


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The Rockets!


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Me standing on the Bow Bridge. Finally saw this beautiful and romantic bridge in person!


And finally...

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The Miller Christmas tree in Florida! (No palm trees were harmed in the decoration process.)

 

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Holiday Aloneness

Holiday LonelinessChristmas is only two weeks away, let’s begin our discussion about loneliness and take a look at aloneness during the holidays. And SUMites it’s not only our community that feels alone during this time of year. For different reasons, The Holidays punctuate loneliness in many hearts.

Those of us who walk through life with a spouse that navigates life from a different world view, the Christmas season brings a new set of challenges into our homes and hearts. I know for me, there were many years in our marriage that this was the one time in the year that my husband would attend church, the Christmas Eve Service. In fact, his entire family would attend…

I had tremendous expectations that each of them would be overwhelmed by the story of the birth of Jesus and thereby be saved. Yep, didn’t work that way. In fact, I think that the holidays usher spiritual warfare into our homes. Our dysfunctional family members get together, mix in alcohol and a few failed expectations and…… Tempers flare, people say things they shouldn’t and tears sting our eyes. Disappointment pounces.

Am I alone in this?

My friends, I experienced this very thing over Thanksgiving. It was interesting how I literally sensed the enemy walk in the door along with visiting family members. I feel like I battled all week long to fight off, despair, anger, frustration and I had to keep a tight rein on my tongue. I was desperate to keep the peace in my home. That week I was intentional to spend an hour every morning, in deep prayer fighting against the enemy who wanted to disrupt the peace in my home.

I wasn’t going to let that happen.

My friends, in this busy season it’s easy to forgo prayer time because we are overwhelmed with tasks and exhausted by the demands of preparation and holiday events. I’m convinced that it’s imperative that we pray protection over the atmosphere of our home especially when you know that extended family will be in your home.

Take authority over your home and tell the devil he can’t have it. Pray to bring protection around your family and children. As a believing spouse, your prayers are powerful in the spiritual realm (1 Corinthians 7:14).

Secondly, hold your expectations loosely. This is easy to write but difficult to do. I wonder if we could share in the comments just how we can do this and do it authentically. How do we surrender the idyllic image of a perfect family Christmas?

On Friday, I’m going to share some insight into what the Lord is asking of us in our disappointment and confusion. It is truly a Great Word of encouragement.

Okay, this week, please, PLEASE share how you have overcome disappointment and loneliness during the holidays.

Also, I’ve read every one of your comments and the emails that have arrived in the last week. Please forgive me as I haven’t been able to write back or respond to each. But know my heart, I read, pray, my spirit is stirred for you and I pray all the more for you and your heart. Thank you for your grace and understanding as I try to keep up.

I love you my family on the web. Our community’s breakthrough is near. Truly. Lynn

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Childlike in Anticipation - some reflections on Advent

Source: WikipediaI've always loved December. Living in Australia, it’s summer, the end of the school year so we always had our long summer break over December/January. It’s also my birthday month and … it’s Christmas.

I still recall those days approaching Christmas when the presents used to begin to pile up under the tree. Most of them were for dad, he’s a doctor and all his patients bought him presents. Every year. But my sister and two brothers were more excited by what Santa would put in the pillow slips that sat at the end of our beds.

We’d struggle to sleep we were that excited. But mom always warned us that Santa wouldn’t arrive until we were fast asleep.

And then when we woke, far too early for mom and dad, we’d have to wait until they arose before we could open all the goodies in those magical pillowslips.

We had to wait.

The anticipation. The excitement … was electric.

Advent

The season of Advent has commenced. Advent simply means: “coming” or “arrival” – of Jesus.

But as most of us know Jesus didn’t arrive without a long, long wait. Four hundred years in fact. That’s how long the Israelites had to wait.

The four-week season of Advent reflects a time of waiting. We don’t like to wait, do we? Especially if it’s for something important or critical, a test result, an answer to prayer, our pre-believing spouse to meet Jesus, and so on.

“While God rarely comes at our appointed time, he comes at the right time.” (Louis Giglio)

Waiting in the Busy

December is often a frantic month. Besides finishing end of year projects there is the added weight of present buying, parties to attend, gatherings with family and friends. All around us there are reminders of what is coming: the lights, the decorations, the music, the extra crowded malls and our own stress levels.

But what is the gift we are expecting? Or more precisely, who is the gift? Who is arriving?

Jesus.

Remember those days of childlike anticipation, the sense of wonder, on that day? Christmas Day.

A little challenge

In amongst the busyness of December find some time to sit in the Lord’s presence. Allow yourself to recall such days of anticipation, when you couldn’t help but smile. For hours at a time.

He’s coming. Jesus. For you. He’s especially chosen you. You who are holy and dearly loved.

To assist you, read the story of when Mary received a very special and unusual visitor, Gabriel, in Luke 1:26-38. Let go of everything else that’s going on around you. Really desire to hear from God and ask the Spirit to speak to you. Picture yourself in Mary’s place. Imagine the awesomeness of the situation, listen to Gabriel’s words and what they mean.

Write down what you heard, how you felt.

We’d love to hear some of your responses in the comments.

Perhaps do it a few times over the next four weeks. Allow “the words of Christ to dwell in you richly.”

Wishing all of my SUMite friends a joyful Advent season full of childlike wonder and anticipation.

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There Once Was a Man Who Didn't Believe in God

6a00d83451ee9f69e20105365c5148970b-piThere was once a man who didn't believe in God, and he didn't hesitate to let others know how he felt about religion and religious holidays, like Christmas. His wife, however, did believe, and she raised their children to also have faith in God and Jesus, despite his disparaging comments.

One snowy Christmas Eve, his wife was taking their children to a Christmas Eve service in the farm community in which they lived. She asked him to come, but he refused.

"That story is nonsense!" he said. "Why would God lower Himself to come to Earth as a man? That's ridiculous!" So she and the children left, and he stayed home.

A while later, the winds grew stronger and the snow turned into a blizzard. As the man looked out the window, all he saw was a blinding snowstorm. He sat down to relax before the fire for the evening. Then he heard a loud thump. Something had hit the window. Then another thump. He looked out, but couldn't see more than a few feet.

When the snow let up a little, he ventured outside to see what could have been beating on his window. In the field near his house he saw a flock of wild geese. Apparently they had been flying south for the winter when they got caught in the snowstorm and couldn't go on. They were lost and stranded on his farm, with no food or shelter. They just flapped their wings and flew around the field in low circles, blindly and aimlessly. A couple of them had flown into his window, it seemed.

The man felt sorry for the geese and wanted to help them. The barn would be a great place for them to stay, he thought. It's warm and safe; surely they could spend the night and wait out the storm. So he walked over to the barn and opened the doors wide, then watched and waited, hoping they would notice the open barn and go inside.

image from unequalmarriage.typepad.comThe geese just fluttered around aimlessly and didn't seem to notice the barn or realize what it could mean for them. The man tried to get their attention, but that just seemed to scare them and they moved further away. He went into the house and came back out with some bread, broke it up, and made a breadcrumbs trail leading to the barn, but they still didn't catch on.

Now he was getting frustrated. He got behind them and tried to shoo them toward the barn, but they only got more scared and scattered in every direction except toward the barn. Nothing he did could get them to go into the barn where they would be warm and safe.

"Why don't they follow me?!" he exclaimed. "Can't they see this is the only place where they can survive the storm?" He thought for a moment and realized that they just wouldn't follow a human.

"If only I were a goose, then I could save them," he said out loud.

Then he had an idea. He went into barn, got one of his own geese, and carried it in his arms as he circled around behind the flock of wild geese. He then released it. His goose flew through the flock and straight into the barn - and one by one the other geese followed it to safety!

He stood silently for a moment as the words he had spoken a few minutes earlier replayed in his mind:

"If only I were a goose, then I could save them!" 

Then he thought about what he had said to his wife earlier. "Why would God want to be like us? That's ridiculous!"

Suddenly it all made sense. That is what God had done. We were like the geese - blind, lost, and perishing. God had His Son become like us so He could show us the way and save us. That was the meaning of Christmas, he realized!

As the winds and blinding snow died down, his soul became quiet and pondered this wonderful thought. Suddenly he understood what Christmas was all about, why Christ had come.

Years of doubt and disbelief vanished like the passing storm. He fell to his knees in the snow, and prayed his first prayer: 

"Thank You, God, for coming in human form to get me out of the storm!" 

~Author Unknown

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