New Year, New Focus

 

Simon and me at the beginning of our epic, 2 hour lunch date on New Year’s Eve.

Simon and I started a new tradition last year – a lunch date at our beloved Big Shucks discussing the past year and framing up the new year. Thank you, Ann Voskamp, for your excellent freebies to help us focus our goals in such a measurable way! (If you’ve never done this before, we highly recommend it.)

This lunch date was an integral part of living life purposefully this past year and I’m looking forward with eager anticipation to what 2017 will bring because of it. I do plan to continue blogging here, but during the course of “framing” 2017, I decided that I needed to spend more time writing offline than online this year. Blogging takes a lot of time and while I enjoyed blogging last year immensely, my focus has shifted for 2017.

The days leading up to our date I felt the Lord prompting me to go deeper with Him this year, to take a topic I am woefully unlearned in and saturate myself with what His Word says about it during the course of the entire year. In 2017, I’m going to sink my teeth into the reality of WHO I AM IN CHRIST and I look forward to sharing what the Lord shows me from time-to-time by blogging about it. My blogging will look sporadic compared to last year’s more regularly shared devotionals & Summer Bible Study, but I hope each post will help you to see just who YOU are in Christ in a clearer, sharper way, too.

Until next time, friend.

The Good News

As the accuser, the enemy of my soul is continually at work chipping away at my identity in Christ. He accuses me of how I never change; how wretched I am; how far I fall short…and he is right – I am and I do!

My performance, however, doesn’t make God’s Word about me, His love for me or what He has done on my behalf more or less powerful. It isn’t based on ME – my ability to live up to a standard, to do “this or that,” to achieve a certain level of performance or perfection. He came to seek and to save the lost! And I qualify!

THIS is Good News!

Roman 5-8

Here We Go a-Adventing

Today is the first day of Advent for the Christmas season and if you’re like me, it has snuck up on you while you were focusing on keeping the thanks in Thanksgiving. Am I right?

Our family has traditionally begun the Christmas season on December 1. That first day in December is a much-anticipated one, especially the further down the ranks you go. On that one day, our home is transformed into a Christmas wonderland with nativities in every room to remind of us of the reason we are celebrating – Jesus birth. We deck the halls. We trim the trees. We hang the stockings with care.  And we begin the countdown to the Big Day with devotionals (and activities) that point us to the manger.

If you find yourself looking for something “more” than the usual holiday stresses, shopping and eating leading up to Christmas this year, I suggest trying one of these great family devotionals that you can begin on December 1 with no advanced prep work:

All the Colors of Christmas Devotional – a free, downloadable daily devotional with doable daily activities for the whole family by Focus on the Family.

Knowing Him by Name – another free, downloadable daily devotional with activities that focuses on a different name of Jesus by Focus on the Family

An Advent of Ideas – a daily devotional with activities that our dear neighbor gave us our first holiday season in the neighborhood; our family favorite is still available at Amazon (affiliate link)

51usb1owegl-_sx370_bo1204203200_In addition to our family devotionals/activities during Advent, I plan to focus my own heart on one witness of the incarnation per week with a short devotional. If this appeals to you, too, please check back on Thursday as I begin this short devotional series with Mary.

How do you focus your heart during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season? What family devotionals have worked for your family? I’d love to hear your suggestions for holiday devotionals and activities, both for yourself & your family. Please share links and your great suggestions in the comments section.

 

 

Forgiving One Another

Jane Eyre quote

Charlotte Bronte penned this inspiring line in my all-time favorite novel, Jane Eyre. I think about this quote often. I aspire for this quote to be fleshed out in my life like it was in Jane’s. The truth of the matter is that this is a constant internal struggle for me. My heart tends to hold on to the hurts inflicted on me, either intentionally or unintentionally, from others. I quickly cry out against others when they are too harsh, too judgmental, or too hypocritical.

When I am the offender, however, I just as quickly excuse my own wrong behavior by saying, “God isn’t finished with me yet.” The inference is that I am a work in progress; I deserve forgiveness because I’m still learning.

I think that tendency is what God had in mind when He penned (through Paul) –

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ forgave you. -Ephesians 4:32

Just as God through Christ forgave you. The times in which my life has most successfully mirrored Jane Eyre’s words have been those times in which I have remembered that my offender, too, is a work in progress. God isn’t finished with them yet, either. And by offering the same grace that I expect, I am learning how to forgive, just as God through Christ forgave me.

PONDER: Is there someone in your life against whom you are nursing animosity? Are you mentally keeping a register of the wrongs committed against you? Let’s wipe the slate clean today and choose to walk with them in forgiveness, just as God through Christ forgave you.


Forgiving One Another is one of thirty devotionals I’ve written as part of a friend’s devotional project.  You can read more short devotionals like this by clicking here or the Devotionals tab at the top of this page.

 

The Heart of a Servant – a guest post by Amanda Erickson

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I was so little my daddy had to pull a chair up to the kitchen sink so I could stand on it, tippy-toed, to help wash the dishes. Actually, I’m pretty sure he had me rinsing dishes, as my untrained eye and the desire to rush through this chore almost surely would have resulted in not very clean dishes. Daddy was washing, I was rinsing.

Some of my earliest memories of family holidays are of my Daddy drawing my little brother and me to himself and telling us it was time to clean our Grandma’s kitchen. Not all that surprising was how resistant my brother and I were to this idea – downright resentful some times! But my dad, well, he always did it with a cheerful spirit, often whistling or humming a tune while cleaning up the holiday mess.

There are recurring moments that sprinkle through my childhood memories. Daddy washing up dishes at Grandma’s house. Daddy clearing people’s plates from the table at church functions so they could keep right on talking. Daddy staying until the lights were turned out and doors locked so he could help clean up after a party or event.

“Serve one another in love.” Galatians 5:13

Over the past 2 1/2 years I’ve been on the receiving end of my dad’s selfless service. Throughout two tough pregnancies and having new little ones of my own, my dad has stepped in to serve me in ways I never knew I needed. During my pregnancies he’d call on his way home from work (he drives by my house to go to and from work) to see if I needed anything on his way by. Whether it was delivering pregnancy cravings or taking out a mostly empty trash bag because super pregnancy nose was in full swing, he did it. And when my husband is out of town he stops by to help give baths and tuck in tots. Although that may be a little self serving since his my two year old loves seeing his Papa, and the feeling is quite mutual.188349_502463844269_896_n

My dad has the heart of a servant. He serves others and models Christ in a way that makes the Gospel come to life right before your eyes, bringing to life the Scriptural admonition to serve one another in love. Of course as a kid I thought washing dishes at Grandma’s house was some sort of unusual punishment or penance required for enjoying a bountiful Christmas morning. As I grew up though, I realized that inasmuch as Daddy was teaching us to do dishes with a  cheerful spirit (confession: I still wrestle with that), the more valuable lesson he modeled for us was that of selflessly and joyfully serving others.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:5-7

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My father-in-law has the heart of a servant. Truly. He is the first person that came to mind when I turned my attention toward the command to “serve one another.” His consistent example to me over the past 25 years has defined and shaped what it looks like to flesh out this command and has served to inspire me toward living the same. While I’ve seen his servant’s heart in action for the past 25 years of marriage to his oldest, my sister-in-law (Amanda Erickson) has been blessed with a lifetime of living and learning from this most gracious of men. May you be blessed in getting to know my amazing father-in-law, Murray Smith, through the eyes of his biggest fan.

Accepting One Another – Part 1

I am a highly impressionable person. I believe we all are in varying degrees. What we read, what we watch, the company we keep – all of these have a hand in shaping our perceptions and perspective. We vicariously learn through the experiences of the characters we come to know on the screen or in the pages of a book, whether for good or evil. One such character that has shaped my perspective on relating to others is Lorelei Gilmore from Gilmore Girls.

Lorelei is in the front row, red shirt. Her daughter, Rory, sits next to her. Her mother (Emily Gilmore) stands behind her.
Some of our favorite residents of Stars Hollow (and Hartford, CT) gathered around Lorelei (front row, red shirt), the original Gilmore Girl.

Gilmore Girls was a fast-paced, cleverly written show littered with pop culture references and witty banter. I was drawn to the main character (Lorelei) from the first episode in 2000. Lorelei, having become pregnant at sixteen, was now the mother of a sixteen-year-old daughter herself. What drew me to her character was that she accepted people at face value, for who they were at present, not who she wanted them to be. This was starkly contrasted against her own mother’s character whose snarky comments usually left little room for doubt that Lorelei was a constant source of disappointment to her.  Lorelei usually managed to find humor even in the most humorless of people or circumstances. She was keenly aware that she didn’t have it all together. That perspective freed her from easily taking offense when those around her didn’t have it all together, either, allowing her to accept people as-is.


Romans 15:7 – Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.


PONDER: If you have trouble accepting people as-is, ask yourself this: How did Christ accept you? (Hint: Read Romans 5:8.)