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By michele

Advent

Advent, my favorite time of year.

I love to sit every morning in front of our tree, the ornaments reminding me of days gone by, many made by my grown children’s little hands of years ago. A cozy blanket wraps me in warmth and reminds me of His comforting love.

The quietness and stillness slows my morning and bids me time to ponder anew the mystery and majesty of this time of waiting. Of anticipation. Of Hope arriving as we usher in the celebration of the Word becoming flesh.

I sit with great expectancy of hearing the “Still Small Voice” whisper a new truth to my heart.

I meditate. I wait. I process. I worship.

The twinkling lights remind me of the Light that has come to pierce the darkness. Once again, I ponder those words. Pierce. To penetrate, to force or make a way into. According to another source, you can “pierce confusion by saying something that makes everything clear.”

Perhaps this is it. This is what the Light has come to do to the dark. It has come to pierce the confusion and to make everything clear.

The Word became flesh so He might live and dwell in us and among us; to rid us of the doubts and confusion, which is this dark world’s only meager offering to us.

I recently had a conversation with my now 30-year-old son and was reminding him of how much I love the season of Advent. He told me he used to think I was crazy when I would tell him that; “How could she love Advent more than Christmas Day?” As he’s gotten older, though, he says he gets it. He understands better the joy of the anticipation.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord shines over you.

For look, darkness covers the earth, and total darkness the peoples: but the Lord will shine over you, and His glory will appear over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your radiance.

~Isaiah 60. 1-3

The Secret To Knowing Jesus

I have a two-year-old in my life. She is just learning to talk. She has unique ways of pronouncing words and sometimes it’s hard to decipher what she’s saying. At first, I would depend on her dad to translate for me. However, lately, I’ve discovered the best way to understand her is to spend time with her. The longer I’m with her, the easier it becomes to figure out what she’s saying. The more I listen to her, the better I become at learning her unique ways of communicating. Sometimes when I can’t understand her words, I can come to know what she’s saying by her expressions and body language. The more I’m around her, the easier it is to understand what she wants me to know.


 I met a new friend recently. She was so excited to tell me all about herself. We talked (she talked) for what seemed like 30 minutes before she took a breath. I just listened. As we parted ways, she apologized when she realized she had talked the whole time, and while I left knowing a few things about her, she knew nothing about me.

 I’m discovering there are two primary ways to get to know someone. The first is spending time with them. The second is listening. If your goal in a relationship is to know and understand the other person, you must spend time with them. And you need to listen more than you talk. When I first started walking with Jesus, I depended on others to translate what He was saying by listening to sermons and reading books. (Which is still a great way to hear from Him.) But now that I’ve spent time getting to know Him, it’s even sweeter when I can hear what He’s telling me without always depending on someone else to translate.

I had lunch last week with a friend who, like me, has been around the block a few times and has come to understand and appreciate the value of spending time every day with Jesus. We concluded that it’s not something you can really explain; it’s something you must experience. Once you’ve experienced spending time with Jesus, you come to understand the value of it.

 Another friend of mine has a saying, “You can’t spend time with Jesus every day and not be changed.”

 An author friend of mine says it similarly when asked her definition of the word Abide. She says to abide is to sit at the feet of Jesus every day, listening to His words with a heart to obey.

This is the key to a successful Christian life. It’s spending time with Jesus every day. 

In Philippians 3.10, Paul writes, “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead.”

As we are all in different seasons, this will look different in each of our lives.

I’m currently in a season where I don’t have children at home. I don’t have a job that requires me to leave early in the morning, so for me, I’m able to make spending time with Jesus a priority first thing in the morning.  

My normal routine is to go downstairs and ceremoniously make my tea (the way the Brits taught me), light my candles, and then sit at His feet. I am intentional to abide with Jesus every morning. To sit at His feet, reading His word and listening to Him, with a heart to obey.

 I know many of you are in a season where you have to be at work early in the morning or you have little ones with you all the time. (Or both!) I once heard someone say, “my children wake up at the crack of the Bible.” I remember those days; at one point I had five children under the age of eight, so I know how hard it is!  While it may be more of a challenge for you to find 10 minutes to spend alone with Jesus, it’s not impossible. You just have to be intentional. 

During that busy season of my life, a mentor friend of mine introduced me to the idea of having a tent. She referred to Genesis 12.8 which reads, “From there he (Abram) moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord.”

Bethel, which means “house of bread” is symbolic for the church. Ai, which translates to “heap of ruins” can be symbolic of the world. Abram pitched his tent in between the two. And there he built an altar.

So, one way to spend time with Jesus is to get a tent. A tent can be any cute bag you choose to hold the contents of your “altar.” My tent usually holds these items: my Bible, a journal, a cute pen, a devotional or study I’m working on, a few notecards (in case the Lord prompts me to write a note to someone), usually a bottle of water and always a few pieces of chocolate.

Make it a habit to carry your tent every time you leave the house. You may not know as you go through your day when you’ll have ten minutes to pitch your tent. It may be while you’re waiting at the dentist or doctor’s office, in the carpool line waiting for a child, or in between other appointments. (Do yourself a huge favor; TAKE FACEBOOK OFF YOUR PHONE so you’re not tempted to waste your time scrolling through it mindlessly! – You’ve got more important things to do!)

The bottom line is this; spending time with Jesus every day is how your life will be transformed. Again, as my friend says, “You can’t sit at the feet of Jesus every day and not be changed. It just happens!” 

Someone Saw A Need

The kids were clapping their hands and grinning ear to ear as they made their way into “the big church building.” I found myself caught up in their excitement and fumbled for my phone wanting to capture the scene taking place before me.  

We were visiting my daughter and son-in-law one Sunday morning, and as we made our way from the side of the building, we noticed several little blue wagons parading through the parking lot. We got closer, and I realized they were being pulled by volunteers making their way to parked mini-vans, SUVS and 4-door sedans.  Parents were unbuckling car seats, handing over diaper bags and dinosaur backpacks, and unloading little ones who were anticipating their magical rides in little blue wagons, right up to the front doors of the church. 

Ingenuous, I thought.  

Someone saw a need. 

My sweet friend has breast cancer. As I was perusing the shop trying to find a warm blanket or shawl to send her, I remembered a ministry my sister takes part in at her church. 

Several of her friends gather each week and spend the morning knitting beautiful shawls to gift to those in need of a warm, enveloping reminder that someone cares. And mostly that Jesus cares. The shawls are prayed over, attaching a little note to each one letting the recipient know the love and care and prayers that have gone into their heartwarming creations. As a need arises, the shawls are taken to nursing homes, chemo centers, hospitals and any other place someone needs a warm touch. 

So tenderly beautiful, I thought. 

Someone saw a need. 

Who has a need in your little circle? What ways could you creatively share a touch from Jesus today? 

I visited an elderly friend today. She shared with me how lonely her Sunday evenings are. Her husband has passed away and she particularly misses him on Sundays. She comes home from church and has lunch and then her day seems to go downhill from there.

As we talked, the Lord opened my eyes (and ears) to see a need.  

Dear Jesus, would you give me eyes and ears to see the needs of those around me? In small ways, or perhaps grander ones, help me to serve someone in need today. Amen. 

For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for others, as you still do. ~ Hebrews 6.10 

Resurrection Hope

I recently attended a retreat and as I perused the women sitting in the large circle, I became curious as to the journey each of them took to arrive in that particular seat, in this particular location, “for such a time as this.”

Later that day, I conducted a scientifically lacking survey and simply asked several women how they ended up at our retreat. Not surprisingly, the majority of them said they were invited by someone else. They were personally invited. One lady read an advertisement on Facebook; another saw it in the church bulletin. The majority, however, were invited by a friend or fellow church or Bible study attendee.

The beginning of Holy Week stirs up many personal thoughts as I spend a few extra minutes each morning contemplating what this week looked like to Jesus. As I ponder His suffering and agony and anticipation of becoming broken for us, I am also reminded of my friends and neighbors who haven’t yet experienced His great love for our very broken world.

How do they go on? How do those without a personal relationship and faith in Jesus continue to walk in this fallen world with all the aches, pains and hopelessness that would naturally accompany a journey through this life? These are questions I find myself wrestling with often as I look out my window and walk down my street, realizing the hurt and disappointment and suffering that takes place behind the wreath-decorated doors with spring flowers blooming in the buckets on the front porches.

If I really believe Jesus’ death and resurrection makes all the difference in my life, and He is the only real Hope in this world, why am I not more intentional to share His love with the hurting friends and neighbors God has placed in my life?

Easter Sunday quickly approaches. My prayer is that I will use this week to really engage in conversation with my neighbors and to offer them the Hope I’ve experienced that I know only comes from a relationship with Jesus.

People are more likely to visit a church (or any gathering) where they personally know someone else who attends. A warm and genuine invitation is often all it takes to move someone from thinking about attending church to walking through the doors.

Will you join me over the next few days in praying for opportunities to share with our friends and neighbors, for that unexpected meet-up at the mailbox or bus stop, for the inconvenience of running out of sugar and being brave enough to knock on the door to ask our neighbor if we can borrow a cup? Because I’m asking, I’m expecting God to provide an easy and natural way for me to connect and invite a friend to church on Sunday. According to Lifeway Research, Easter is the most popular church attendance day on the calendar. Let’s seize Resurrection Day and offer Hope to those we know!

You Are My Favorite Child!

On each of their birthdays, I address their cards “To My Favorite Child.” When they were younger, it was easy to call “The Boy” (our affectionate name for Eli) our favorite son, as he was the only one. Trailing him, however, were four daughters who all wanted to be the favorite, as well.

As they grew up, I decided early on that the one I was with would be my favorite. As Britain and I drove home from school, I would comment to her, “Britain, you’re my favorite child.” And she would beam. When Mallory would come in from practice, I’d greet her at the door and give her a hug and remind her she was my favorite child. At a track meet, when Eli would come and sit his sweaty body next to me on the bleachers, I would hand him a towel and exclaim, “Eli, you are my favorite child.” Lydia would dance through the kitchen and down through the hall and I would sing as she pirouetted, “There goes Lydia, my favorite child.” And when Emilie would call me from college, for the fourth time that day, I would answer the phone and cheerfully say, “Hello, Emilie, my favorite child.”

I’d hear other parents who carefully told their children they didn’t have a favorite; that they love all of their children equally. How disappointing, I thought. Doesn’t every child have a longing to be their parents’ favorite?

My children are all grown now and beginning to have children of their own. I love the adult conversations we have and listening to the memories they share of their childhood. Interestingly, not long ago, Mallory and Lydia had a conversation where they playfully argued about how they each thought they were my favorite child. And I just smiled.

God our Father has many children. And I think He longs for each of us to know that we are His very favorite. He doesn’t love us equally; He loves us individually, as if we were His one and only child.

On days I feel unlovable, I need only to open my Bible, His personal love letter written to me, and read a few of His thoughts.

With a love that is vastly immeasurable, the Father exclaims to each one of us, “YOU, are my favorite child!

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3.1