Advent

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Advent means “coming” or “arrival”. The 4 Sundays before Christmas is when we celebrate advent – the anticipation of Jesus’ coming or birthday. On Christ eve, we light the final candle which is the Christ candle – anticipating His 2nd coming when He will restore all things to new. Do you celebrate advent?

I didn’t start celebrating until I was an adult. If you have never participated in advent before, start this year. Resources abound to help you. Our church gave us a booklet with scripture to read, questions to ask, and even a prayer to recite. There are advent studies online that can guide you. My favorite advent study is from Dynamic Catholic – Best Advent Ever. Matthew Kelly is an insightful teacher. Max Lucado is doing a daily text message for free. If none of these appeal to you, let me know. I have other resources I can share.

Why celebrate advent? It helps you focus on Christ during Christmas. It softens your heart and refocuses your mind. If you are dealing with the stress of the season (or life in general), it’s a place to rest and refresh. It’s a way for you to teach your kid(s) (if you have some in your home), about the true meaning of Christmas. The next generation needs to seep themselves in Christian tradition so it sticks long into their adulthood. Think of your Christmas traditions from childhood you are still observing today in your own home. Let’s add another spiritual component to our holiday traditions.

Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it. ~Proverbs 22:6 NASB

The first candle of Advent is focused on Hope. Each week there is a different focus (love, joy, peace). Don’t we need hope these days? Things are weird in our world right now. Just plain weird. Hope lets us stay above it all. Hope helps us focus on God’s faithfulness in the past and lean on that today. Hope allows us to be OK when our circumstances aren’t so good. Hope gives us confidence that God is at work, even if we don’t see it. Hope isn’t false. It isn’t being happy when we are sad. It’s being sad but deep inside knowing it’ll be OK. It’s being happy and deep inside knowing God is working in me.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. ~ Hebrews 11:1 NIV

I encourage you to start advent today. If you don’t have the supplies, just use any candle you have. Pumpkin spice, vanilla cinnamon, mango, whatever. Just do it. Start today if you missed yesterday – the first Sunday of advent. Friends, add this tradition to your Christmas season. You will be glad you did. Feel free to ask any questions in the comment section, myself, or other readers will be happy to get you going on this journey. Also, if you don’t know Jesus personally, advent is a great way to discover who He is. Dive in!

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Happy Thanksgiving

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Are you already cooking? I am about to start. If you are like our family, we are making all the sides and trimmings even though we have no guests this year. We are making turkey, Honeybaked ham, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, and so on. It’s all happening even though my parents and siblings won’t be in attendance. I love these dishes. We only make it once a year. Let’s do it right.

If you find yourself alone this year, I encourage you to zoom with a friend or make your own feast and freeze the leftovers. Don’t skip the day. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect and show gratitude (although the food is great too). If you make the holiday about being thankful, you won’t be disappointed. How can we be engage in being thankful with the state of our world?

  • Spend the day writing thank you or “I appreciate you” cards
  • Order takeout for a neighbor tomorrow and have it delivered anonymously
  • Share your favorite book with a friend, ask them to read it and pass it on
  • (Come up with your own idea that fits your personality)

There are many ways you can share gratitude with others. Take the time to do so. Also, take a moment to be real too. Acknowledge the losses of this year (missed graduation ceremonies, ill friends and family, financial losses, etc.). Don’t act like all is good because it isn’t. It’s tough. However, we will get through this. So offer real thanks by sharing the good and the bad with those around your table or around your zoom call. Address both sides of the emotions.

I’m thankful for you. Thank you for reading and responding to my blog. Have a wonderfully, reimagined Thanksgiving this year!

Dream Big! Pray Big!

“Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” ~ Psalm 106:1

Imago Dei

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Imago Dei means “image of God” in Latin. Did you know we are all created in the image of God? Your postal worker, your uber driver, the cashier at Ralphs, the baby in the stroller, the inmate – you get the idea – all of us.

So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.~ Genesis 1:27 NIV

When you think of people this way, it changes your attitude towards them. They were created in God’s image. They were meant to have relationship with God. They were meant to be in sync with God’s plans for them. We all know people who don’t fit those descriptions. They don’t know God and some, even deny His existence. Yet, they are still created in His image.

The path to God is narrow. Many miss it. Many ignore it. Many don’t even try to find it. Some flat out reject it. There is only one way to have relationship with Him – through belief in His Son, Jesus.

 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. ~ John 14:6 NIV

I know I have shared this before. However, the concept of seeing others as God sees them, is helping me deal with our polarized country. Whether you voted for Trump or Biden doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that you are a person created in God’s image. You are valuable to God. You matter to Him. If I vilify you because you voted differently than I or you chose to have Thanksgiving with all 50 of your relatives, you are still valuable to God. Who am I to question that? I don’t have to attend your super-spreader Thanksgiving gathering (OK a bit of my opinion leaked through here.) I don’t have to agree with your candidate’s positions on the economy. I do have to value you. I do have to be kind to you. I am called to value you. I am called to be kind to you. You are made in God’s image.

I was reminded of this truth this week. I wanted to remind you of this truth too. Let’s allow it to make a difference in our interaction with others. Others who also made in the image of God.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Lukewarm

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Water has healing properties. A refreshing drink of cold water parches our thirst and hydrates our body. A dip in a natural hot spring can ease our aches and relax our anxious mind. Laodicea was located between 2 towns: One town known for its healing hot springs and the other town known for it’s refreshing, fresh cold water. Using ancient aqueducts (a huge feat for any town but especially a town in 79 AD), they routed water to their town from the surrounding towns. Once the water reached Laodicea, it was lukewarm. Not refreshingly cold or hot and healing. Lukewarm. Most us have heard sermons, based on Revelation 3:14-22, warning us not to be lukewarm. This passage is a letter to the church in Laodicea in which God says “I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

All my life I understood that to mean, you are for God or against Him. Serve him or don’t. Stop sitting in the middle. Yesterday, my pastor, Albert Tate, explained that to be a false belief. God wants to have relationship with you. He isn’t saying join or leave. However, God is clear, there is only one path to Him through His Son, Jesus. Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” ~ John 14:6 NIV Reading the passage in Revelation 3 in the context of Laodicea, we understand God is saying I want you to be hot – a healing hot spring or cold – a refreshment to others. Lukewarm doesn’t heal or refresh. It’s nothing. It’s blah.

With this new understanding, I am encouraged to examine my life. Am I a healer or a refresher to others, or both? What are you? I think I am more of a refresher with moments of being a healer. I try to encourage my friends regularly. God often prompts me to pray for someone or call them. When I do, I find out they were in a time of need. My prayers and calls encouraged them. Be to others like a refreshing drink of ice cold water on a hot day.

I sat in a natural hot spring once in my life. It took me forever to get in. It was HOT! The water wasn’t just hot but had minerals in it as well. Those minerals made my skin so soft. I felt relaxed and renewed afterwards. According to the research, healing also occurred in that natural hot spring. When we help others relax, refocus on God, release their built up feelings, we bring healing. As a hot spring releases your tight muscles, you too can help release others to find healing.

So which are you: a hot spring of healing or a refreshing cool drink of water? Or maybe these days you have been a bit lukewarm. Not able to be either for anyone else. Invite someone into your reality and find healing and refreshment from them as they point you to God. Once you are restored, pass that on to another. We have seasons where we need to receive and seasons of giving. Resolve your lukewarm season. Be hot or cold. Be a healer or refresher. Don’t sit in lukewarm.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Setbacks

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Friday Southern California Edison delivered a letter that said in 5 days I would lose power for 2 DAYS. You read that right. 2 days with no power. I opened the letter after work on Friday evening. I was speechless. When I called customer service however, I found my words. I said, “how can you give us only 5 days to prepare to lose all the food in our fridge, to find a place my kids can do remote high school, to find a place where I can work remotely and to find a place to stay that has power? And since it’s covid, that means a hotel I can’t bunk with friends.” Needless to say I was frustrated. Exasperated was a better word.

Have you found in this season of Covid, and this week waiting for the outcome of our election, that small things seem bigger? We are right on the edge some days. Other days not so much. But some days, right on the edge. I honestly felt that day I was in a good place. One setback, showed that wasn’t true.

Setbacks have a way of exposing our true state of mind. Setbacks also teach us what needs to change. You see, my being upset about 2 days with no power is reasonable. As exasperated as I was, I did not respond in anger to the customer service woman at SCE. (She actually deserves a gold star for how kind she was). Tears aren’t a sign of weakness just an effect of being pushed over the edge. However, the tears flowing so quickly showed me the state of my mind. And, although I was not mean to the customer service woman, internally I felt anger, hopelessness and defeat. My heart wasn’t right.

Last night I took the time to talk to my kids about Friday’s events. I told them that in this season, we may think we are fine but setbacks arise and we realize differently. I apologized for not stopping and praying before acting. I reminded them that Mom is human. Lastly, I told them what I was going to do to make sure I don’t spiral so quickly next time. Here are my takeaways from this setback:

  • Pray before I act and pray whenever I feel overwhelmed
  • Have grace for myself when I feel exasperated – it’s going to happen from time to time and some days I will handle it well, other days, not so much
  • Learn from every setback – communicate that lesson to my kids
  • Don’t hesitate to reach out to a friend to gain perspective

Next time you face a setback, see it as a learning tool and a measurement of where your state of mind is. Setbacks are always going to come. How we deal with a setback is a sign of our growth and maturity in Christ. The grace we extend ourselves is also a sign of that maturity. We are in a tough season. It’s not ending anytime soon. Let’s learn and grow in the midst of this.

Say to them, ‘This is what the Lord says: “‘When people fall down, do they not get up? When someone turns away, do they not return? ~ Jeremiah 8:4 NIV

Dream Big! Pray Big!

P.S. SCE sent a note on Saturday changing the times. It’s now only 4 hours total. Much more manageable. Whew!