Day One – Perspective.

Merry Christmas, dear brothers and sisters! Today is a day in which all around the world Christians celebrate the birth of our Savior and of our King. But today – and every day, really – we don’t have to stop at the celebration of His birth! I personally feel that every single day is reason to celebrate not only the birth of Jesus but also His life and ministry on earth, His death on the cross and resurrection, and in some ways perhaps most importantly – what all of that means for you and for me today, December 25th, 2019. And tomorrow. And the next day. And EVERY day until we meet our Savior face to face.

Since being here in Richmond I’ve been attending both services at my home church – traditional worship and contemporary worship. And while I know that I don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why I attend both, when it does come up in conversation… well for starters I love both worship styles. But beyond that and deeper than that, when you’ve seen God radically transform your life in such a beautiful way and in such a short amount of time? Wow. I would love to spend hours worshipping Him in communion with fellow believers on a daily basis if I could, and I’m not one bit kidding. Unfortunately our society doesn’t work like that, but I think you get the idea.

A quote from a dear friend and pastor and author comes to mind… “What happens when you believe you are loved by the Father? Have you noticed? When you believe you are loved by the Father, joy starts to bubble up. You already had an abundance of joy in you, but it wasn’t bubbling up as long as you forgot you are loved”.

Wow. I read that for the first time just recently, and I immediately stopped in my tracks to thank both this friend for sharing the quote but FAR more importantly to thank the Lord for what He has done in my life. See, because of His relentless pursuit of my heart, because of His refusal to see me living a life without any of the joy described above… Because of that, I come to you today able to share my heart. I come to you today to talk about the first amazing gift – the gift of perspective.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

I remember the first time this verse showed up on my radar. I was 13, give or take, and I was seeing the musical Wicked in Chicago. Glinda, one of the two female leads, was being played by a woman of faith, one who loves the Lord. She included this verse in her short bio, and I remember asking my sister Samantha about the verse. I’ve never forgotten that Romans 8:28 is the scripture that this actress chose.

Over the years I’ve become much more familiar with the words. I’ve heard them spoken about many times in sermons and I’ve studied them over and over myself. And over the years the meaning that they have for me personally has changed and morphed, but where it stands today… I’m grateful for it. After all, it’s a great reminder for that perspective that can only come through a faith in God.

I remember somewhere along the way I heard it said this way… God doesn’t cause bad things to happen in our lives. He never intends for us to get hurt physically or emotionally, He never intends for things to break – tangible things, relationships, or anything else. But in His infinite wisdom sometimes He allows things to happen. And although we often can’t understand it, He does call us to trust Him. He calls us to trust that He WILL work things out to bring good from whatever the situation.

For instance – my car accident this summer, hitting a deer in the middle of the night at open interstate speeds. Was God sitting up in heaven ordering the deer to jump in front of my car so that my whole trip would go sideways, so that I would end up being injured and still finishing the rehab six months later? … while we don’t know for sure, I’m going to say likely not.

But because He is God? Well, because He’s God (and I’m NOT!!) and because of the promise of Romans 8:28… He used the painful (yes physically, too!) and backwards situation to help me learn and see some valuable things. I really didn’t start the bulk of rehabbing the injury until early August, and by that time things at home in Santa Rosa were entering full upheaval move. I didn’t have my direction from God to head for Virginia quite yet, but I knew that big change was coming.

And trying to recover from a fairly significant whiplash injury, including a fair amount of physical pain, in the middle of all of that? To say it kept me reliant on God would be an understatement. I mean, I remember journaling one day, super upset that the injury had to happen. Super upset by the physical pain, not to mention the timing of it all. But then I realized… because of all of the events of 2019, if it wasn’t for the injury, it could have been far too easy to take the credit for balancing everything and making the move to Virginia happen.

But throw in an injury? There’s just no way. There is absolutely NO way that I did any of that myself, let alone entirely by myself. So while the injury was still a big pain (quite literally at times), it has kept me humble. It kept things in… perspective. It helped me to see over and over again just how big God is and how much I’m… not.

It’s also perspective, though, that allows me to even see any good and beautiful things that may have come of this injury.

It’s perspective that allows us as Christians to remember – despite His humble appearance as an infant in a manger – the gravity and eternal importance of the holiday we are celebrating today.

This perspective is truly a gift, and it’s one that I can’t imagine my life without.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Yet one more example in scripture of how much God is God, and how much we are not.

Happy birthday, baby Jesus. Thank You for Your wisdom, including the wisdom You had to come to earth as a baby to fulfill Your perfect plan. May we always remember why we celebrate on this holy day.

12 days {gifts} of Christmas.

Well, friends – another year has just about come to a close and Christmas Eve 2019 is upon us. I know that most of the world keeps going nonstop until all of the stores and restaurants close later tonight, but to me that seems a little silly… Yes tomorrow – the 25th – is the actual Christmas holiday. But most churches have their big services and any programs tonight, the 24th. And since Christmas is all about Jesus anyway… I don’t know. I just wish we could have more than one 24 hour period to fully stop and breathe and remember the gift of perfect Peace that came to us so humbly in a stable so many years ago.

So wherever you are, friend, even if you still have three stores to hit and countless presents to wrap yet today… I invite you to take just a moment. Right here, right now. A moment to pause and to reflect and to remember that while the gifts and presents we give can be beautiful expressions of our love for someone… they are not the end all, be all. Christmas could still happen – and it would still be all it needs to be – without a single gift for our sister or for our in laws or even for our kids. So I invite you to breathe… and to remember.

Speaking of gifts, though, today’s post is actually an introduction to a writing project that’s been on my heart and mind for quite some time. As 2019 has progressed and I’ve continued to learn and see what it’s like to live a life free from unnecessary bondage, I’ve come to view the last seven years since high school as an incredible gift from the Lord. And, within that, I’ve come to realize that there are some specific gifts from Him that stick out in my mind. Gifts that would not have come if anything had been different in recent years, but gifts without which I absolutely cannot imagine my life today.

So I invite you on this journey with me… or as I might like to call it, I invite you to join me in exploring my own “12 days of Christmas”. I’ve got a list of twelve things for which I am daily filled with gratitude, and each day between now and January 5th I’m going to take a look at each gift individually. I’ll have some kind of wrap up post then on the 6th, on Epiphany… on a day where we can remember when the Christ Child received the gifts from the magi.

I’ll see you along the way, friend. Here’s to new beginnings, surrendering to Jesus, seeing the beauty in ashes… and, most importantly, here’s to the birth of our Savior all those years ago.

Merry Christmas Eve.