living braver

one faith step at a time…


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Filled…

candle blue pixa x     Three last days, to fill up stockings, refrigerators…hearts.

Christmas Day is just about here, we’ve been anticipating it for the past few weeks, and soon we will leave it behind for another year. Is that how it’s supposed to be?

Maybe the next few days we should fill ourselves up: “…to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19 NIV) When all the world continues on oblivious to God, when all the world crashes in and takes away our ‘merry’, when all the world fills our heart with trembling instead of jingling – will we despair? We might, but if we are filled up with all the fullness of the love of God, a love that surpasses any experience or knowledge we have…then maybe despair will quickly fade to hope, joy peace.

snow candle pixa x

This is the stuff of Christmas: hope in the Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God, joy because of the Everlasting Father, and peace from the Price of Peace. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…and He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace. (Isaiah 9:6 NIV)

Whether we have much or little to put under the tree this year, we can have much to fill not only our hearts but those we hold dear. This is the stuff of faith: “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” (1Peter 1:8 NIV)

candle red snow pixa x

After all the packages are opened, the shiny paper discarded, the leftovers put away – don’t let Christmas fade away. Christmas is every day because Jesus didn’t come and fade away, He came that we could be forgiven, that we could have eternity. He came and gave His life and now His Holy Spirit reigns in the hearts of all who believe. This is the Good News of Christmas for all our days, let us say together:

Praise be to His glorious Name forever; may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen (Psalm 72:19 NIV)

candles pixa x

 

 

 

 

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Open Arms…

angel pixa x     Ten days and counting…celebration or chaos?

Is it possible to have both but still have peace, still have courage, still have Him…

I watched a children’s Christmas production recently. The youngest came up at the beginning and sang their song, so sweet – one little guy was so proud of himself at the end of the song, he folded his arms across his chest and beamed the biggest smile. As they headed down the aisle to exit one looked a little nervous, about that time his daddy appeared with arms open wide. He flew into those arms, relief flooding his face.

That’s me and you, you know. I make lists for gifts, I spend money as wisely as possible, have hopeful expectations that the gifts will please. But what if they don’t?

I make cookies or send cards, trying to express love, but is it enough?

stars tree pixa x

That’s when I realize my focus is on the trimmings, not on the reason. Jesus came in the midst of chaos, most too busy to notice. An angel chorus announced the Good News to those who were quiet, not to the boisterous crowds. In the quiet, we can hear “Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10 NIV) All the people may not listen, the quiet may only hear, but still the news is for all…

So when I’m unsure, when my heart is apprehensive, there is a way. A way made to open arms that will calm my doubts, soothe my feelings of not enough. Do you know those arms?

cross pixa x

Those are the same arms that not so many years later were stretched out on a cross. Arms open wide Good News laid down His life, taking on all the sins ever committed, all sins yet to be committed. Once again good news was proclaimed, through ragged breaths “…Jesus said ‘It is finished.’ With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” (John 19:30 NIV)

Finished – do you believe? Will you accept? It is finished, sin no longer has to chain us. It is finished, fear no longer has to be our master. It is finished, joy ours in the midst of any pain. It is finished, assurance of forever life after our last breath here. Just wait til you fall into those arms. Can you see Him standing there, arms open wide? Can you feel them envelope you? If you can, you have Christmas every day…

tree ornament heart pixa x


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Freed…

gift boxes pixa x     Sometimes we like to box things up nice and neat. Large box, bottom shelf for my worries about my children. Small box highest shelf for the grief of losing a loved one. Medium box back behind others for fears I just won’t face.

Then we go on our merry way saying how much we trust God or believe in Him or know nothing is impossible with Him.

Except maybe these few boxes that we’ve locked away in the storage shed. Those things we keep a lid on – that we don’t let go of – keep us behind bars. I see it all the time. The young woman who trusts God with her health or job – but not the relationship she’s currently in (for fear she may lose him). The man who trusts God with his wife or children – but not his money (for fear there may not be enough). And on it goes, something we just feel we need to control, or…

Does it control us?

Christmas deco pixa x

My friend Michelle expressed her freedom in Christ beautifully: Free to share my time, God created time. Free to share my money, it’s God’s anyway. Free to share my abilities, God will make the most of them. Free to attempt the next trial or test, to fail or to succeed. Free to forgive, as I am forgiven.

“Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32 NIV) So what is the Truth? “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.’ “ (John 14:6 NIV)

The truth, Jesus, opens our boxes – lids flung far – reaches in and says: don’t worry – I will make all things new, don’t grieve – someday no more tears, don’t be afraid – I will never leave you.

open box canva x

“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” (Luke 2:9 NIV) After hearing the message, the shepherds hurried to see for themselves and fear turned to praise “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” (Luke 2:10 NIV)

Let us be like the shepherds, let us hear the message, see for ourselves, and replace our boxes with praises. We are freed…

angel decoration pixa x

If you stopped by because you read my devotion today over at Encouragement Cafe, WELCOME!   So glad you are here!


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Needy…

blue ornament pixa x     It’s December… Everyone’s shopping… Needy?

Always, always we seem to be seeking to fill some need. An emptiness that we perceive as an empty shelf, closet, or plate.

Never having the courage to look deep and see where the emptiness really is. Knowing that it is heart deep, never seeming to be filled, and needing covering so it won’t be exposed for any to see. “For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.” (Psalm 109:22 NIV)

heart ornament pixa x

Wounded – by a hard world that seems to be getting harder. Leaving us poor and needy, except that…

Except that a Savior, whose birthday celebration is weeks away, came that we no longer have to seek to fill that needy, empty place. “I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak” (Ezekiel 34:16b NIV)

It is in the letting go of other’s expectations of us, of our expectations of others that we can finally see we are not needy, we are not empty and exposed. “For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10b NIV)

Certainly not our righteousness, as we are sorely lacking in that department, but even in this God has provided. And not just with words but in action. Sending His Son that not only does His robe of righteousness cover over, it heals and fills – and we are arrayed – and God sees His righteousness as He beholds us.

gold ornaments pixa x

As we anticipate not just a holiday, not just a day off from work, not just a family event – but as we await the celebration of a quite wondrous gift, will we stop the online seeking of deals and rush of the mall search? Only in the quiet will we see the abundance.

For if we seek Him, the things that fill shopping carts and drain bank accounts will pale in comparison. Then we can fill up those around us and just maybe the awe of what God has done by sending His Son will dawn on many hearts.

“When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this Child” (Luke 2:17 NIV)

gold bell pixa x

 

 


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Twas 2 Nights Before

???????????????????????????????     “In a Book of old pages, so Living and True, you can hear Jesus whisper, I’m coming for You. Through every story, the King fiercely came, and He beckons you, woos you, and calls you by name!” (Ann Voskamp The Night Before Advent)

The word Advent means… He is COMING. He came a little over 2,000 years ago to do what no one else could – impart His perfect righteousness that those who will trust Him as Lord and Savior can live forever…

Someday, not so distant now, He is COMING again, this time to take us to be with Him and live with fear banished forever…

As we slow down for a day to remember that God would lay aside His splendor to be lowly born like you and like me, that He would look evil in the face and declare “It is Finished”, and spread His arms wide for you and for me – let’s with grateful lips declare ‘Til You come to take me from here, I will seek You moment by moment to conquer my fear. Be they my own demons or foes all around – in You only can Living Braver be found.’

I pray you and those you love have a most holy and blessed day remembering the greatest gift ever given –

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, He is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11NIV underline/italics mine) You can read the whole Christmas story in Luke 2:1-20.

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In the Thorns…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA      The thorns… in the Word it says the thorns are those worries, riches, pleasures that choke out the Word so our hearts don’t hear it, believe it… In that time of testing, we let the seed of His rich love and mercy lay on bare ground – the bare ground of our unbelief…

Who needs commitment, and sacrifice, and submission – make merry, live for today, drink the cup of forgetting is what the world wants us to do. It seems easier to disappear into the folds of what everyone else says is right…to be lost in the thorns…

Hide behind the smile, the make-up, the money or the poverty… Keep tight reign over emotions, longings, fears… Let the thorns have their way, it will all work out…

Notice the rose, it pushes higher above the thorns, beckoning with sweet fragrance… Notice Jesus, a crown of thorns pierced His brow, He was nailed high on a cross and beckoned with forgiveness… There is a price to escape the thorns, but it’s been paid – and we are crowned… with salvation. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has crowned us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3 WNT italics mine) Catch that?  – has crowned, not will crown – done deal for those who believe.

Listen for the Word, “If anyone has ears let him hear.” (Mark 4:23 NIV) – let it burrow deep in the fertile ground of your vulnerability, He will water and nurture and no thorns will deceive …hear the Word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” (Luke 8:15 NIV) – a crop of thankfulness leaving fear among the thorns…

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Rest…

rest1     So what is it about the holidays? In July the thought of twinkling lights and hot cocoa sounds so… special. Then November 1st hits and the thought of pleasing e v e r y o n e makes twinkling lights irritating and hot cocoa nauseous. There’s the money aspect, the who is going to whose house this year thing, the expectations (food, gifts, decorations, and on and on)…

Soon Thanksgiving becomes get the tree up becomes programs and parties becomes last minute wrapping becomes ‘ what another year has gone by?? ‘

Whoa, put on the brakes… “Come to me,” Listen, He’s calling to you“all you who are weary and burdened,”isn’t that what we are, yes that is it, weary “and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV) Rest in the midst of how much money we can spend or not spend, rest in the disappointment of the family member not present at the Thanksgiving table, rest in the housecleaning/baking/decorating whirlwind…

Take My yoke upon you”not the holiday season yoke – “and learn from Me” – not from the sales papers – “for I am gentle and humble in heart” – not expecting any more than the acceptance of His invitation – “and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29 NIV)   If our soul is at rest, fears become manageable, anxiety becomes tamable, holidays become…

T H A N K S …G I V I N G

J O Y…F U L L

HEART…FELT

A celebration of all our blessings and our trials…

A recognition of Who controls the universe and our next breath…

Jesus becomes the reason: “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” (John 1:14 NIV)

Rest, if only for a moment, He will be all you need for that moment and the next and the next….