Monday, December 29, 2014

The Inevitable New Year's Resolution Post

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." I think it's safe to say that 2014 has been quite a ride! I stand amazed at all that God has done - miracle after miracle, healing after healing, provision, restoration, renewal, forgiveness, freedom, peace, truth, love... I'm thankful for this blog, which stands as a testimony to God's power and perseverance in my life. Reading back over my posts from the past year, I am utterly overwhelmed by the grace and goodness of God.

As 2015 approaches, however, I have to admit to being a bit of a cynic when it comes to the idea of resolutions, particularly this time of year. When I was younger, I would faithfully, year after year after year, write out my New Year's Resolutions every December 31st, ready and willing to change my life and the world! And inevitably, by around the middle of January (or February if I was lucky), my fire would burn out and life would slip back into its usual groove. This was nearly always accompanied by a generous helping of guilt. It isn't much wonder that I finally gave up on the whole thing - it just wasn't worth it.

This year feels a little different, however. Maybe it's because the big 4-0 is looming ever nearer (12 days - eek!), but almost in spite of myself, a word and a verse have floated to the top of my hazy sub-conscience. The word is "overcomer". The verses are from Hebrews 12:

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

I've "thrown off" something pretty significant lately - something I've hung onto for the longest time. I finally arrived at the place where I was willing to surrender it to God, come what may. It wasn't worth what it was costing me. At first, it left a huge, gaping hole in my heart - but that hole has already been filled to overflowing by my gracious and generous and patient heavenly Father. Here's how He did it: In the process of obediently throwing off this "sin that so easily entangles", I received another life-altering revelation about my past and how it was affecting my present. (I'm so incredibly thankful that God doesn't dump everything on us at once, but reveals truth as we are ready to receive it and incorporate it into our lives!) To say that this one hit me completely out of the blue would be an understatement - my head was spinning with the suddenness and significance of it all. It explained so much! It wasn't something I'd ever thought to wonder about before, but when brought to my attention, it was hard to imagine how I'd missed it. It completely transformed how I perceived the aforementioned situation that appeared to be such a huge, awful,  un-conqueror-able thing. In the light of this new revelation, I can see more clearly, and evaluate more accurately this particular tendency of mine, and consequently the version of the issue I'm currently dealing with. 

I can see now that I was trying to solve a deeper spiritual problem with a surface-y human solution. I had planned to simply remove myself from the situation, but what God wanted to do was to meet the need that was in my heart. I was treating the symptoms; God got the root of the issue and gave me the truth I needed for healing and freedom. He is so good!

But I don't think the revelation would have come as readily if I hadn't finally been willing to surrender it all. It was through this act of obedience, however misguided, that I was made ready to receive the truth I needed to really make things right. What God showed me through this situation resulted in beautiful healing, not only in this particular case, but it changed how I view so many of my past choices and actions, and freed me from the guilt that I had carried forward for far too long. (huge sigh of relief...)

And so, as 2014 comes to a close, I'm excited to see what God will do in the year to come, both in me and through me! I'm anticipating unprecedented victories - while acknowledging that this means even bigger challenges to overcome. I'm ready; God has been equipping me - this past year has served to strengthen my faith and increase my joy and deepen my experience of God's presence and peace and power in my life. I recognize, more than ever, that I still have a lot of growing to do - so much to learn and so much wisdom to gain. But I am convinced, more than ever, that God is fully able to carry me through any difficulty that comes my way, and to make me more than a conqueror in any situation - all for His glory! I'll run with perseverance the race marked out for me, fixing my eyes on Jesus. There's no doubt that I'll fear, I'll fall, I'll fail - but I am confident that God will be more than enough, more than equal to any task or test. He is unfailingly faithful - hallelujah!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Advent - Come, Lord Jesus

The Christmas countdown is on in earnest at our house - our two bright-eyed boys (6 and 10) are practically jumping out of their skin! School finished yesterday. Five more sleeps :)  They can hardly stand the wait! As I child, I much preferred it when school closed as close to Christmas Eve as possible - it made the wait a little more bearable. If we all manage to survive the next five days, it'll be a Christmas miracle, indeed!

It's the presents that are driving them particularly batty. This is the first year we've put gifts under the tree before Christmas eve (indeed, the first year we've been able to shop much before Christmas eve - thankful!). I appreciate on a whole new level the lengths to which my dear Mother was forced to go to ensure that the fragile wrapping paper would do its job of concealment until the appointed time. (I think she was very grateful and relieved when sturdy, economical, re-usable gift bags arrived on the scene. My own kids have boycotted gift bags - one or two are ok, they've informed me, but they would much rather experience the satisfaction of ripping paper...) I had forgotten the agonizing thrill of stacking, sorting, counting, arranging and rearranging; of shaking and squeezing and yes, even sniffing; of guessing and wondering and questioning and anticipating. The following plea can be (and has been) heard from either boy at any time, seemingly out of the blue, day or night: "I can't wait - can't I pleeeeeese open just one little present RIGHT NOW?!"

Ah, waiting...the bane of our existence. At least the kids are honest about it - we adults will invariably attempt to mask the wild eagerness and churning anxiety that accompanies a period of waiting, but have any of us really progressed beyond childhood when it comes to waiting well? I sang a song at a service recently called "Be Still". With very simple and beautiful lyrics, the chorus says,

Be still, my soul, be still
Be still, my soul, be still
Wait patiently up on the Lord
Be still, my soul, be still

A difficult piece of advice to heed even in the best of times.

I love that the observation of Advent has become common practice for so many these days. Advent, which simply means "arrival", can be a beautiful, meaningful time of heart-preparation for the game-changing coming of the Christ-child into the world. The wait is relatively easy for us, though - isn't it? We already know the next part of the story - God is already with us! We have already experienced the miraculous gift of Emmanuel! Can you imagine what it must have been like for the people of Israel; waiting, waiting, waiting for this Advent, their promised Messiah? Waiting for their salvation, their freedom, the lifting of the heavy burden of oppression and persecution, for peace and justice and redemption...what inexpressible joy for the few who were able to recognize Him for who He was!

And what a heart-breaking tragedy for the many who missed Him completely, who failed to grant Him His rightful position...and for those who continue to miss Him. I don't ever want to be numbered among these.

May we intentionally take the time to sufficiently still our souls this Advent season to experience the waiting, the longing, the expectant hope - and to know the deep peace and rest and joy that accompanies His arrival! Merry, merry Christmas - from our family to yours!

Friday, December 12, 2014


I've plunked myself down in front of my computer every day this week, in hopes that inspiring insights and excellent encouragement would flow from my brain through my fingers to the keyboard and onto the page - but to no avail. Here's trusting that today will be different :)

The strange thing is, I have no issues to write about today. All is well in my little world. A beautiful peace has settled over my heart, and I'm enjoying it to the full. Well, maybe that's not completely accurate...I'm trying to enjoy it to the full. A bit of me (a much smaller bit than usual - yay!) is on constant alert, wondering what obstacle or test or burden or crisis will come next. However, I am learning to rest in the presence of my ever-gracious Father. I'm practising the discipline of peace and trust, no matter what the situation. I'm not getting it right every time, but more and more consistently, I'm bringing the peace of Christ with me into whatever situation may present itself in my life - and experiencing such grace and joy as a result!

That's the miracle I've been pondering the past little while, that I wanted to share but couldn't find the words - Emmanuel. God with us! That's the whole reason it's possible for me to bring the peace of Christ with me into life's storms and famines and floods and droughts - He is with me. He is with me! Unbelievable concept, but one I'm forced to accept as truth because I've experienced it - I'm living it!

And here we are at Christmastime, a time to contemplate and celebrate the gift, the wonder, the miracle, the awe of Emmanuel. It's the fact of Emmanuel - God with us - that enables us to live the life He's called us to live. We were never expected to accomplish this on our own - the Old Testament proved that the thing was utterly hopeless, impossible. But God with us?! Limitless potential, unfathomable power, endless possibilities!

I guess it's no wonder that the enemy works so hard to distract us from this wonder-filled truth this time of year. There's no way he can rob the glorious event of its truth, but he regularly succeeds in diminishing the peace and joy and power that the fact of His coming makes available to us. This year, let's reclaim it. Let's take back Christmas - let's celebrate with joyful abandon this astonishing thing, this gift of life and grace and freedom and peace and joy! Let's allow our hearts to be filled to overflowing with the wonder and delight of it all! The birth of Christ is deserving of any amount of hoopla and hype - let's proclaim it loud! Let's make His coming the cause and focus of all our merriment and revelry this season! Emmanuel - God is with us! Hallelujah!