Nov 282015
 

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The house is decorated for Christmas.  Colored lights twinkle in the living room.  Greenery is hung over the door frames. The nativity scenes are standing watch.  The candles are ready.   Advent starts in the morning!

Advent is dear to me.   I love this holiday.  I enjoy the food & sweets.  I love buying gifts and thinking about parties and my family coming home.   But, above the holiday festivities, I love Advent.  It anchors me in this consumer culture.  It keeps my heart soft – waiting for my Savior to arrive.  It keeps my mind pliable to consider that maybe Jesus will show up in a way that I’m not expecting.

My boys asked about Advent yesterday and got an impromptu sermon in the living room!  Why do I think the church needs to celebrate advent?   Because it is the one time of year when we sit in the 400 years of silence.  The time between the promise and it’s fulfillment.  Those hard, dark in-between spaces of waiting and wondering and hoping.   The moment before the angels break open Heaven with singing and news.

Advent is that in-between.  The not-yet.  The still-believing.  The holding onto hope.   The breathing in and out of faith.   The moments we don’t speak about in church or ladies Bible studies.  The moments when it seems darkness will overcome the light.  The long period of waiting where it seems that God has forgotten or turned his back.

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This morning I read an excerpt from Tim Keller’s new book, The Songs of Jesus – a daily devotional in the Psalms.  (By the way, everyone in my house is getting a copy of this for Christmas! )   Today’s Psalm meditation was in Psalm 126.  Let me give you my thoughts, prompted by his writing and these ancient words:

The Psalm starts out with the exiles rejoicing   They have been restored and are full of laughter, joy and praise.  We all love living in these three verses.  When you feel the blessing of God’s provision and your heart bursts in praise.  If only the Psalm would stop at verse three!  But verse four pulls us back into them calling out to BE restored.   That part that isn’t restored YET.  That advent part of waiting for restoration.

The psalmist uses two metaphors for bringing water back into a dry, desert place.

  • The first is the gushing streams sent by the Lord that flood & fill the dry land with water.   Bring on the gushing streams, O Lord!
  • The second metaphor is a lone farmer planting seeds by hand.  These seeds aren’t watered by the gushing streams of miracle water.  Nope, they’re watered by the tears of the farmer.  Little salty drops of tear-water.    The lone farmer doesn’t see the quick results of gushing streams.  But the Scripture says that he does get a harvest – and sings with the harvest of his little seeds.

As you enter this season of Advent, you may be living in both parts of Psalm 126.  Hearts overflowing with God’s provision and goodness – but still crying out for restoration in dry parts of your life.  Take heart!   There may be a flood coming your way.  If so, rejoice!   There may be a slow, seed planting that is watered by your tears and prayers.   If so, stay in the field.   Persevere.   Plant & water.  Because even the lone farmer sees his harvest and breaks into song.

Let’s not hurry our lives through Advent.  Let’s sit with the in-between and not-yets in our lives.  Let’s praise for the goodness flooding us and plant seeds in the barren spots.  Let the season of Advent meet your heart this year as encouragement, comfort and joy.

 

Dec 172014
 

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“And he will be the source of peace.”

Micah 5:5

Was caught off guard by this gem tucked at the end of my Advent reading this morning.   And he will be the source of peace.

  • No government is going to bring about peace – for their citizens or ours
  • No organized shopping list & gift wrapping frenzy will bring peace
  • No Christmas bonus or financial gift will bring peace
  • Having everyone home for the holidays will not bring peace
  • The prettiest lights, lovely table linens and delicious food will not bring peace

He is the source of peace.  In our world.  This season.  In our homes.  In our families.

I know this truth with my head but my attention gets pulled by online news, commercials & coupons, family schedules and holiday planning.   In the quiet of this morning I needed this truth:  He will be the source of peace.

 

Dec 032014
 

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I’ve enjoyed the #Adventword challenge.  Tuesday we were given the word “imagine” and asked to take a photo that would embody something that we can imagine this Advent season.  This is my image:  my daughter’s ballerina christmas ornament on our tree.  I can imagine a world in which all little girls sing, wiggle, dance & play without abuse and trafficking.  I can imagine a world where all little girls spin & twirl with giggles.

This image was in my mind as I read yesterdays Advent Scripture:

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.

For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.

For you will break the yoke of their slavery 

and life the heavy burden from their shoulders.

You will break the oppressor’s rod, 

just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian.

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For unto us a child is born,

a son is given.

The government will rest on his shoulders and he will be called

Wonderful Counselor

Mighty God

Everlasting Father

Prince of Peace

His government and its peace shall never end.

He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David

for all eternity.

The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will

make this happen.

Isaiah 9

 

You know my heart for the ministry of Love 146.  I read these verses and immediately prayed for the children & young women that they rescue out of trafficking.  Those who live in a land of deep darkness.   Those who need a passionate commitment from the Lord of Heaven’s Armies to combat the evil that holds them in its grasp.  Little ones who can’t even imagine a world with fairness & justice & peace.

In this advent season, we cry out “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.  Come and set these suffering little ones free.”

I imagine living in His Kingdom and it makes my heart sing & wiggle.   Come and redeem us, O Lord.

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If you’re interested in supporting Love 146 during this holiday season, they would appreciate your prayers & financial donations.  There are several ways you can get involved:

  • Make a financial donation
  • Designate Love 146  as your AmazonSmile account so they receive a donation from the gifts you’re buying online through Amazon
  • Share Love 146 in your social media

 

Dec 012014
 

Enjoy this Advent song:  Hope is Alive performed by Ellie Holcomb

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Advent arrived yesterday morning – in the midst of leftover turkey, shopping bags, Christmas decorations and loads of college-student laundry.   It always seems to jump up on me.   Maybe it’s fitting that the first week brings the message of Hope.

Hope to those who are waiting,  Hope in the chaos.  Hope in the middle of daily tasks.  Hope of a Savior who will enter the darkness as the Light of the World.

If you haven’t got all your Advent plans in place, let me recommend a couple of resources that I’m enjoying this year:

  • She Reads Truth has a spectacular Advent plan.  Daily Bible readings, devotionals, Spotify playlist, printables..and carols & recipes (if you have their Advent book).   You’ll want to enjoy all this goodness with the community of women at She Reads Truth.
  • Ann Voskamp is posting a weekly advent video.  You’ll want to watch her video on Hope.   Her book, The Greatest Gift, is a great Bible journey for this month.
  • Rachel Hackenberg, who writes our Weekly Prayer Prompt, is emailing daily Advent prayer prompts.  Her prayer prompt fit perfectly with my pastor’s sermon yesterday.  I love when God works out details like that.  I”m listening, Lord!
  • I am participating in an Advent Instagram challenge   #Adventword     This is an international challenge and its been wonderful to see photos of each topic from Christians worldwide.   Check it out on Instagram #Adventword

If you’re aware of other Advent resources that have been helpful in your life, leave me a comment and let me know about it.  I’d love to pass the information on to others on this global front porch.

May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,

so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in Hope.  

Romans 15:13 (ESV)

Nov 212014
 

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I was having church in my living room last night with the girls from She Reads Truth.   Martha Street has been a huge supporter of this ministry – since back in the day when they were still using You Version devotionals to supplement their writing!   Things have improved, grown and taken root since then.  I still love their vision:

Getting Women into the Truth of Scripture Everyday

I love that it’s gospel centered.  It’s written by women.  It’s enhanced by the online community of women from around the world who are making it a priority to read & live in the truth of Scripture.   This is a ministry that I’m proud to support, encourage and enjoy.

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The party last night was for those who backed the Kickstarter campaign to help develop the She Reads Truth app.  I sat alone in my living room joining  Raechel & Amanda, Annie Downs & Ellie Holcomb.

Ellie kicked the night off with a song that set the tone for the entire hour.  Praise.  Thanksgiving.  Connecting together around the glory of our Savior.  The first song got everyone a little teary.  “Blurry joy”  they called it!

The conversation went immediately to the truth of Scripture:

  • Ephesians 3:14-20.   “Now to him…”   This is all about Him.  The glory of this project & function of this app is all for Him.
  • Luke 1:37.  “No word from God will ever fail.”   This is a She Reads Truth favorite.  An angel talking to a scared, young girl.  A promise for each of us as we step into God’s calling.  A promise as we tuck truth into the corners of our hearts & creases of our minds each morning.  No word from God will ever fail.

Ellie sang her song based on Lamentations 3 & Hosea 6.   Passages we’ve studied recently were lifted up in song.  Oh, that we may know the Lord!

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Annie Downs carried a powerful message for us.  Embracing that scripture is TRUTH is a game changer in life.  Nothing else is TRUE in that same way.  She urged us to consider that those in Scripture never knew what the outcome of their story would be.  Noah didn’t know the rain would ever stop.  Jonah didn’t know the whale would be sick after 72 hours & vomit him out.  Daniel’s friends didn’t know how God was going to respond when they were sentenced to die in a fiery furnace.

Bravery isn’t knowing the end of your story.  Courage is taking the next step…regardless of how this story takes shape.  Courage walks forward without knowing the end.  (We do know that mercy wins in the END…but you know what I mean!)

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We couldn’t end the night without some news & secrets for the upcoming year.

  • Today is the last day to order your Advent packs.  I got mine in the mail and it is FANTASTIC.  Get your order in today.
  • There are some site changes coming in the New Year.  Love the great design & ease of the site as well as meaningful content.
  • There is going to be a “Read the Bible thru in a Year” track if you want to take on that challenge in 2015.  All the info is coming soon on the site.

We concluded with Ellie singing her new Christmas song.  Yep, gave us all permission to blare it out even before Thanksgiving!  It’s available for purchase on iTunes, Hope is Alive.

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I continue to love the women’s hearts and voices at She Reads Truth.  I want Truth to permeate every aspect of my life.  I want to always be in community with other women who have the same desire so we can stand together and encourage one another.  I’m thrilled to be a small part of She Reads Truth.

 

If you made it through this long re-cap, you deserve a little perk – how about listening to Hope is Alive?


Dec 022013
 

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In case your house was still full of Thanksgiving guests & turkey leftovers, we entered the advent season…Yesterday.   I helped set up our church advent wreath & decorations before Thanksgiving so that we’d be ready for Sunday morning services.  I’m sure many people walked in church (after eating pumpkin pie leftovers for breakfast!) and were shocked to hear the first reading & see the candle lit.

Without catching our breath, we’re into Advent.

I am not writing daily advent devotionals like I did last year.  I LOVED doing it but it was a huge time commitment that I can’t dedicate to that task this year.  However, there are two great online Advent options that I want to bring to your attention.

Ann Voskamp is airing weekly  Advent videos – every Sunday on her site, A Holy Experience.  If you’re using her new Advent book, The Greatest Gift, this is a great companion video.  Once a week find a moment to watch her Advent videos.  I highly recommend her book, printing & using the daily ornaments on a Jesse Tree, and watching the Christmas at the Farm teaching.   All good things that will fill your heart with good things this season.

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The girls at She Reads Truth are going all out this Advent.  I’m THRILLED by what they’re offering.   Each day they are presenting a passage of Scripture, Advent devotional, responsive prayer, Advent Action prompt, and free advent music.   Yep, a free playlist with a song highlighted every day.  You’ll need to use Spotify (free download) to access the playlist.

Our family read the Scripture and devotional last night – and listened to music as we munched on our Advent Chocolate.  Delightful.

Remember that She Reads Truth will email you daily if that would be move convenient that reading the devotionals online.

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Decide what rhythm  works best for you this season.  Let someone guide & nudge & keep your heart focused through daily readings & devotionals.  Let’s keep a still, sacred, sane, worshipping heart this Christmas.

(And eat chocolate every day – it’s your sacred responsibility!)

 

Dec 262012
 

We love receiving Birth Announcements.  Sweet babies sleeping through the photo shoot.  Information and details about the birth.  A delight to share with friends.  A baby has been born!

 

Before the birth of Christ there were angelic announcements.  Prophecies.  Choirs of Heavenly Hosts singing in the countryside.  Shepherds running around telling everyone the good news.    There were also announcements after his birth.

 

Simeon, a devout man in Jerusalem, came into the temple when Joseph and Mary were there to present Jesus and give offerings.  He scooped him up in his arms and proclaimed,

My eyes have seen your salvation

A light for revelation to the Gentiles

and for glory to your people Israel.

 

Simeon saw the shocked look on Joseph & Mary’s face and blesses them as well.  He goes on with the oddest birth announcement I’ve ever heard:

This child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel,

and for a sign that is opposed 

(to mary:  a sword will pierce through your own soul)

So that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.

 

We know he came to be the Savior of the world.  To bring light to the Gentiles and glory to Israel.  But he came so that the thoughts of many hearts would be revealed?  He came so that Heart-words would come into the light of his mercy and grace.

 

Anna, the prophetess, hears this proclamation and began to give thanks to God.  She started telling this good news to those who were waiting for redemption.  A Savior has come.  The rumblings of your heart can be revealed and healed.  Redemption is here among us.

The next announcement we have about Jesus is when he’s about to begin his ministry.  His cousin, John, sees him walking and yells, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

Behold the lamb.  Redemption is here.  Light and Glory have come.  Hearts are revealed.  The Lord’s Christ has come to be the Savior of the World.

 

Dec 252012
 

 

Entering into the Wonder

 

I wonder as I wander out under the sky

How Jesus the Savior did come for to die.

For poor on’ry people like you and like I.

I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus ‘twas in a cow’s stall

With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all.

But high from God’s heaven a star’s light did fall,

And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,

A star in the sky, or a bird on the wing,

Or all of God’s angels in heaven to sing,

He surely could have it, ‘cause he was the King.

The shepherds made haste to see the thing that the Lord had made known through the Angel’s message.  They found Mary and Joseph and the baby, lying in a manger.  When they saw the family, they told them all that they heard from the Angels concerning the child.

 

What an unexpected interruption that evening. Shepherds coming to visit,  talking quickly.  Trying to explain the sight & sound of a sky full of angels praising God.  Trying to repeat the message exactly right – word for word.

 

We don’t know how long they stayed, but we know what happened when they left.  They were still glorifying and praising God.  They went and told everyone they knew about the events of the evening.  What they heard.  What they saw.  What was said to them by the Angelic Host.

 

Luke 2 tells us that those who heard the Shepherd’s tale wondered at what they heard.  Maybe questions.  Maybe doubt.  But some entered into the wonder of it all.  To whisper in sacred voices, “How could this be?  A newborn King?  A Savior in a manger?”

 

We may be carrying questions in our hearts.  Maybe some doubt clouding our minds.  But let’s not miss out on the wonder.  The awe-struck wonder of The Holy One of Heaven being born of a woman in a lowly place.  The wonder of Emmanuel, God with us.

 

You’re ways, O Lord, are Wonder-Full

 

Dec 242012
 

 

What child is this who, laid to rest,

On Mary’s lap is sleeping?

Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,

While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,

Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;

Haste, haste to bring him laud,

The babe, the son of Mary.

So bring him incense, gold and myrrh,

Come, peasant, King, to own him;

The King of King salvation brings,

Let loving hearts enthrone him.

As we light the white Christ candle in our Advent wreaths, the circle is complete.  The outer candles flaming bright.  The middle filled with purity and light.  The arrival of Christ the King, Savior of the World.

I want us to sit today and quietly observe Mary, his mom.  We only have snippets into her experience.  We can tell from her answer to the angel’s visit that she had a submissive heart.

 

“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord.  Let it be to me according to your word.”

 

Her song of praise leads us to believe that she knew Scripture.  Her song can be summarized in these verses:

 

My soul magnifies the Lord,

And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

 

He who is mighty has done great things for me.

 

My favorite insight into Mary’s heart is this verse:

 

“Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

 

That’s an Advent truth for all of our hearts.  To believe that there will be a fulfillment of what the Lord is speaking and working in our lives.

 

After the Shepherd’s visit to the manger, Scripture reports that Mary treasured up these experiences and pondered them in her heart.  Things fulfilled.  Things not yet fulfilled.  Things to treasure and ponder.

 

May our hearts be like Mary.  Submissive and obedient.  Praising and magnifying the Lord.  Believing.  Treasuring and Pondering.

 

He who is might has done great things for me.

 

Dec 232012
 

Advent Hymn

 

The moon with borrowed light

Gives witness to the sun,

Discreetly fading with the night

When morning has begun.

John’s borrowed light was drawn

From Heaven’s vibrant rays,

His life a witness to the dawn

Of Christ’s approaching blaze.

The clouds of sin yet mask

Earth’s tangled, stubbly ground,

And O how many hearts still ask

Where God’s clear path is found.

For borrowed light we pray

So we may be a sign

That points to Christ, the truth, the way,

The life, the light divine.

The prophet Zechariah received the first angel visitor with news of the arrival of a son, John.  He would be a messenger that would prepare a way for the Lord.  John’s ministry bloomed earlier than Jesus’.  He began preaching and baptizing before Jesus.  Preparing the way through repentance and baptism.

 

This Advent hymn gets to the heart of John’s ministry.  Borrowed light from Heaven’s vibrant rays.  A witness to the dawn of Christ’s approaching blaze.   In John 5 Jesus calls John a burning and shining lamp.  His lamp illuminated the way for others to come to Christ.

 

How often we find ourselves in dark and muddled places.  Broken and hurt relationships.  Busy and anxious days.   Places that need the light of a Savior.

 

For borrowed light we pray so we may be a sign that points to Christ, the truth, the way.   Our Savior, the life, the light divine.