Dependence Day

Red White Blue

Independence Day. I see in the microscope – many images of red, white, blue. Fireworks, apple pie, picnics. Hot southern summer days.  In the “macroscope,” not so much…

Psalm 37 inspired my blog awhile ago because of God’s promises there when things are not vivid red, white, or blue, apple pie-like or picnic-like.  Which is most of the time. “Fret not” became an image of real faith for me, when I needed a deeper and wider place to find footing in Christ. “Fretting not” became not a temporary coping skill, but rather a lifelong disposition to be cultivated through faith in Jesus Christ. How does this disposition form?

I see that “fretting not” has come through a horrendously crushing road of tests and opportunities sent by God to strengthen my faith. In this life so far, two “crushings” in particular have challenged my core. My “go to” was far worse than mere fretting. It was more like a huge infusion of adrenal-laden anxiety that never slept. What I learned from the panic associated with the first crushing helped me to breathe during the second crushing. That epidemic anxiety disrupted my life because I could no longer engineer or manipulate my white-picket-fence facade of circumstances…

Psalm 37:1-6 (Message version) says “Don’t bother your head with braggarts or wish you could succeed like the wicked. In no time they’ll shrivel like grass clippings and wilt like cut flowers in the sun. Get insurance with God and do a good deed, settle down and stick to your last. Open up before God, keep nothing back; He’ll do whatever needs to be done: He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day and stamp you with approval at high noon.”

I’m wiser now. In Psalm 37, “fret not” is given as an imperative, not a suggestion. Probably because God can be fully trusted. Days of unhappiness, sadness, anger, humiliation, disappointment, physical pain, and emotional upset do not need to be further tormented by fretting. Because I can trust in God and His purposes and control. Romans 8:28 is a scripture reference tattooed to my ankle for the last ten years as a reminder. Because it sings its message in my heart.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” The good. Not the happiness. What? A radical truth. The echo: my good, not my happiness… For me, Independence Day was the day I understood Romans 8:28 and realized that, although my happiness is not God’s purpose in my life, that He causes all things, even misery, to work out for my eternal good. He wants me to be holy.

Torturous circumstances simply do not change the truth of Romans 8:28. A root canal gone south, screaming kids in the back of the car, a disastrous family gathering, a door slammed in anger, a pot of creamy soup spilled on the inside of the refrigerator and all down on the floor, traffic jams on I-64, strife in the workplace, estrangement from former friends…

I don’t read Oswald Chambers (MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST) every day, but I did read it yesterday (the entry for July 4th). Is it any surprise that Oswald’s take on Psalm 37 is about the trouble with fretting? Is it any surprise that it is precisely about being fully dependent on God as a lifelong disposition? Chambers says “fussing always ends in sin.” He is SO right. Fussing becomes all about me and my will. How I want to engineer my circumstances. How I don’t deserve a certain outcome. How I have done everything right and should be rewarded. Oh, how sick my soul becomes with this thinking. I end up completely doubting that God has any power and authority over what goes on in my life.

Chambers says (in THE LOVE OF GOD), “It is misleading to imagine that we are developed in spite of our circumstances, we are developed because of them. It is mastery in circumstances that is needed, not mastery over them.”

Everything about the gospel turns upside-down what we think we know. My greatest freedom is not equivalent to independence. My greatest freedom is found in complete dependence on the substitutionary sacrifice Jesus made on my behalf and the life He wants to live through me through faith.

Dedicated to Dad: A Hero of Faith in My Life

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My dad taught me that being faithful to God is difficult when literally everything in the world pulls us in the opposite direction. That pull that draws us away from silence and stillness. That pull that makes us obsess about the next meal or cup of coffee. That pull that replaces rest with restlessness. That decision that compromises our integrity. That email that replaces face to face interaction. That absorption with media and content that replaces the true study of God’s Word.

My dad taught me that many other pulls would come. The ceaseless and distracting demands of parenting. The choking hours of a rising career path. The idolatry of the “work hard-party hard” never-ending cycle. The skin deep friendships that replace the authentic “soul care” relationships. The small talk that replaces gospel conversations. The entertainment drug that strips away being present in the moment. The various good endeavors that open the door to bad things. The various side roads that can turn into harmful addictions…

Psalm 37:39-40 says, “The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; He is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in Him.” My dad taught me the truth of this scripture. Oswald Chambers, in his book MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST (June 16), said “Salvation is easy for us, because it cost God so much. But the exhibiting of salvation in my life is difficult.” My dad showed me that exhibiting salvation is a lifelong challenge.

I see that taking refuge in God (Psalm 37:39-40) is the key to exhibiting our salvation. All the flawed heroes of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11 were known by their faith, were declared righteous by their faith, were long remembered for their faith. Because, even at times of weak faith, they still had faith.

My dad taught me that the difficulty of exhibiting salvation in my life is tremendously eased when I turn my heart and affections to Jesus Christ, Who is the only One Who can deliver me from the forces that pull me in the opposite direction of the world. He taught me that prayer is the cord that connects me to Jesus and expresses my desire to be delivered. Sometimes it is half-hearted. No matter. It still expresses my faith, little as it might be.

I don’t grieve about the difficulty of exhibiting salvation in my life. I know it’s difficult. Tremendously difficult. But, I do appreciate that it needs to be exhibited in some increasing and obvious measure. The salvation that cost God so much simply cannot be hidden if it is real in my life. Thankfully, God’s Holy Spirit provides the help we need to be overcomers, exhibitors of salvation.

My dad is still showing me this!

 

TYPOLOGY THOUGHTS

TYPOLOGY

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This is not a soap box. This is merely a suggestion. Theories of personality can be helpful tools. I confess, the study of types has always been interesting to me. Myers-Briggs was always the best one, in my opinion. Until recently. A good friend recommended these two books about the Enneagram. Having never heard the word “Enneagram” before, I was curious. I read the books two or three times and recommended them to others. Even my “OBX girlfriends” and I agreed to read them before our April trip. Great discussion material…

As I age, I really really want to be characterized by the visible quality that comes from the refining and crushing process of doing God’s will during my lifetime. I want it to be obvious that I have lived for Him. The alternative of living a listless, self-indulgent, and useless life will end without any visible quality. I just don’t want that at all.

I draw much encouragement from Psalm 93:12-15: “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.’ ”

The Enneagram books, workshops, podcasts, and conversations have given me plenty to think about along these lines. Mainly, in regard to family dynamics. The 9 types have given me a new appreciation for the various members of my family in a way that nothing else has. I am grateful. If for no other reason than I have developed a level of empathy regarding people who do not see the world the way I do. And I could never figure out why…

More importantly, the study has pointed the finger at my heart. Thankfully, the two books pictured are written from a Christian worldview and suggest the sin problem that particularly besets each type. I found this to be “right on” in my case. This exposure has had the desired effect. I want to address this sin problem and inhabit the true self that God intended me to be. This requires coming face to face with God’s grace and actively rejecting the false self.

I am a “5” out of the 9 types. There are currently no other fives in my family, except possibly one granddaughter. I feel like everything, especially family dynamics, I previously saw in black and white. And now, I am seeing things in vivid color. The Enneagram study is not the “be all, end all” by any means, but it is definitely a path to help me age well and realize that there is so much more that God wants to do in my life…

Romans 14:19 says, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Romans 15:7 says, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”

In context, these are scriptural instructions for the Christian community, of which I am gratefully a part. Within the community, there are different levels of faith – ranging from weak to strong. But, there are also different levels of type… Typology adds a rich dimension to these instructions that I find very helpful. Maybe you will too.

 

 

These Girls: An Inspiration

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Photo credit – Kim Clayton Lance (Red Leaves)

These girls… What can I say? Their lives tell a great “God story!” Too much to tell here. But I can say a few things. What I can say is that God has truly set His seal of ownership on them.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 says, “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” What I can say is that they live out the mystery of their identity in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Colossians 2:2-3, 8-10 says, “My purpose is that they…may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge…See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, Who is the Head over every power and authority.”

Yesterday, two amazing ladies graduated from Covenant Christian School. They are part of God’s love letter to the world. Along with the sister of one and the teacher of both (pictured top right), there is no doubt that Christ’s fullness is reflected in their young lives. Jesus is their True North. No mistaking this. They will not have an identity crisis as they boldly live out their faith. How refreshing to celebrate a real life fulfillment of 2 Corinthians 3:2-3: “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

In words from their class hymn, BE THOU MY VISION, these girls inspire those around them because they confess these steadfast beliefs, “Thou my great Father, I Thy true son, Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one…” Jesus Christ is “their dignity, their delight, their inheritance, their shelter, their tower…”

As they continue to touch the world by radiating their identity in Christ and His fullness, I am inspired that they dare to be different in the name of Christ.

These girls…

Swept Down

STORM at sea

“When neither the sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.” Acts 27:20

I have experienced at least one season (actually several seasons) in my life where one decision, one unheeded warning, changed the course of history in a monumental way. And ushered in an unbelievable storm. When the storm passed (and it always does), I never forgot the wake of destruction and the marks of what the storm did.

The next warning given, I hope to heed. Be different. Be wise. Praying I will learn from the past.

Acts 27:21 says, “After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: ‘Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss.’ ” The damage and loss can be shocking. You wonder why you didn’t listen to sound and wise advice when it was offered. I know what this is like…

But, I also know what it is like to trust God in the storm and to be sure that He uses even the worst scenarios to further His purposes in my life and the lives of others caught in the storm. Hence, the reason I love Psalm 37. I’ve seen God bring beauty from ashes. Not overnight. But, closer to a lifetime. I’ve seen Him weave the story so that I begin to trust Him more, have more wisdom in my storehouse, have better preparation for the next godly advice I receive.

When you see the storm coming, you have decisions to make. When you later realize that it could have been prevented by one different decision, then you know the power of decisions. You think you have affirmation from God, but all you have is some kind of consensus from those around you. You think you did your research, but it turns out you missed a few important things. One different phone call. One different conversation. One different employment decision. One different family decision. One different leadership decision. Could have averted disaster.

Acts 27:25-26 says, “So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”

Running aground can be merciful. It is God’s way of setting you on a new and better course. He doesn’t let you dwell in the “what ifs” but He challenges you with the “what nows.” The “what now” is God’s way of rescuing you and reminding you that He is in charge of the northeasters in your life. He is in charge of the course of history and our part in it. He is not mocked by our bad decisions. He uses every phone call, every conversation, every meeting, every failure, every disaster to move us toward deeper trust in Him and His eternal purposes. Keep up your courage.

God’s eternal purposes trump our temporary purposes, bad or good, disaster or not. And remind us that, when you are God’s child, no ignoring of wise advice, no inviting of unnecessary disaster, can thwart God’s plans. If anything, He uses the disasters to mature us in Him and put godly character in us where it was missing before. Keep up your courage.

Be careful to discern God’s voice. Acts 27:11-15 says, “But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest. When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the “northeaster,” swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along.”

Keep up your courage. Prayerfully question the advice of the pilot and the owner of the ship. Ask God for discernment. Decisions are powerful. I thank God for the “Pauls” in my life. I’m a better listener now.

 

 

 

Humility Clothing

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Stinging arrows of truth got my attention at a workshop on humility that I recently attended at a conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. I am stuck on these two things. Self-preservation and accomplishment. These comprise my inner voice, my motivations for doing anything really. My old self. My false self. My ego-centered self.

Romans 13:14 says, “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” This is where Easter leads me. I want to put on the new self. Really I do. I want to clothe myself in Christ. But, so much gets in the way. So. much. I get in my own way.

Romans 14 whispers to me a description of true humility. Things like acceptance without quarreling over disputable matters. Not treating people with contempt or judgment. Loving others sincerely. Trusting the Lord in all the affairs of believers, strong or weak ones. Belonging to the Lord, therefore belonging to the community of faith, the whole community – not just one denomination. Realizing that we can never say “we have loved enough.”

Because Jesus lovingly emptied Himself on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin, how then can I not “reject ALL prejudices and personality preferences” to love – sincerely love others? It doesn’t make sense. I can’t seem to reject my prejudices. And I can’t seem to get past my wiring and my masks. Even my strengths. My weaknesses. And my interference in God’s timing and purposes. Why can’t I simply depend on God and not the opportunities that come along that become my replacements for dependence on Him?

This Easter, the cross reminds me that I must clothe myself in Christ’s humility by the grace of the Holy Spirit. I don’t want to stay stuck in self-preservation and accomplishment. I’ve got to get rid of my list of people who don’t measure up. I’ve got to stop thinking that I know what everybody ought to be doing. I need to listen up and not be the half-listener I am at all the wrong times. I need to give up all claims to territory. God is the owner.

The truth is – God went to great lengths to help me put on the new redeemed self. He can also be trusted to expose my old self and put it to death. Goodbye to self-preservation and accomplishment. Hello to Easter. Psalm 37:39-40 says, “The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; He is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in Him.” He delivers us from ourselves…

My Easter prayer. I want the self that resembles Christ. I do. That self is transformed by God’s Spirit. That self experiences the fullness of Jesus. That self is motivated to grow up in Him and encounter Him through His Word. Become like Him. That self gives up the right to be right. That self puts rights aside. That self loves sincerely.

Romans 12:9-10 says, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

I want the self that resembles Christ.

 

 

 

 

Is Anything Too Hard?

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Photo Credit – Kim Clayton Lance

Is anything too hard for the Lord? This is not a trick question. My wandering heart often says “yes.”

Yet, Easter is the emphatic “NO.” Remembering this “NO” is difficult when the distractions of the world shut out the truth of the gospel. When life is unfair. When life doesn’t work according to schedule. When hurts get deeper and deeper. When what I want is all that is important. When cancer strikes. When jobs are lost. When friends become enemies. When infertility strikes. When family dynamics are dysfunctional. When aging becomes a gauntlet instead of a gentle passage of seasons.

Genesis 18:13-14 says, “Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” ” And, Sarah did.

Isaiah 9:6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” And, this happened.

There is a song recorded by Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood called “Somethin’ Bad.” I think of the lyrics sometimes and see how closely they describe life’s non-song, true experiences. The ultimate “somethin’ bad” really did happen! Jesus emptied Himself and died on the cross to save me from my sin and rebellion. He was horribly crucified so that I could become spiritually healed and right with God. He gave His life so that I could live eternally with Him.

Could there have been another path? The answer is still… NO. When my faith is waning, I am Sarah. Full of doubt. Out of patience. Tired of hoping. Wondering if God can be trusted after all. Trying to figure out if I can make things happen on my own. Trying to be a fixer. Saying to myself, some things might be too hard for the Lord.

Then God’s Spirit nudges me back onto the path of grace. He strengthens my faith. He reminds me that I have let the trappings of Easter crowd out the truth. He rids me of doubt. He shows me that true Easter somehow got buried in the rubble of Easter egg hunts, Sunday dresses, spring colors, bunny rabbits, and sugar treats. He restores hope. He turns my impatience around. He whispers, “Sarah, trust me.”

Nothing is too hard for Him. He conquered death. He was resurrected. He broke the power of sin. He is completely trustworthy. He loves everlastingly. Psalm 37:1 says “do not fret…” and Psalm 37:7 says, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him…” And, Sarah did have a son.

And, we have The Son.

The Caution Lights

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Flashing. Flashing. Flashing. Time to either dangerously push through or stop. I recently had to give up one of my favorite fun commitments to make room for another meaningful commitment. The caution light kept flashing, “Something’s gotta go.”

I know my relationship to tasks has always been troubled. Many times, I have prided myself on being able to “squeeze the blood out of time.” Not so anymore… I am at the age where it is time to savor things and enjoy what was missed in my prime time. Become Mary. Leave Martha behind. Sit at the feet of Jesus. Be and not do. “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him…” (Psalm 37: 7a)

This is my rationale. I will always be a workaholic in my spirit. So, I’m still making a case for Martha. The “just do it” mentality. I still trade depth of sleep for length of sleep (and reason I only need 6 hours) and likewise trade depth of soul Sabbath for length of soul Sabbath, ignoring what I really need. Depth.

What I really need. The rest that comes from God sovereignly engineering my “goings.” The rest that comes from understanding that my identity is not found in my performance. The rest that comes from hearing Jesus say, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) The rest that comes from Jesus’s finished work on the cross, where God imputed my sin to Him and His righteousness to me.

I found a deeply humbling message about rest. I’ve listened intently. Tim Keller delivered a sermon (October 22, 2015) called “Work and Rest” based upon Luke 6:1-11. Because of Jesus, I can be sure that I have been brought out of slavery and into a profound rest. It is a “day off” like none other. So, why would I keep insisting upon an existence that enslaves – by being too busy, over-committed, and unable to say “no?” Because I lapse into thinking that work defines me. I forget that Jesus defines me.

There’s a caution light here. Be cautious of trying to serve Christ without knowing Him. Oswald Chambers (My Utmost for His Highest, October 3, devotional) challenges the reader to make sure that there is nothing standing between Jesus and us. Nothing. No appointments. No service. No ministry.

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God…” Separate yourself from the lights and darknesses of the world. Go where there can be no interference. Where you can actually detect the caution lights flashing. Where the opinions of others can’t reach you. Where your own opinions can’t reach you. And know God.

 

 

Feet on the Ground

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Flying used to be fun. Taking off and landing provided a real rush. But now, travel by air has lost its appeal. Recycled air, sardine-like seating, the need for knee pads, and the peak of flu season on top. Still a means to a beautiful sunset end!

I recently traveled by airplane to Cape Coral, Florida. That gorgeous sunset was worth the momentary fretting with airline frustrations. Always glad to have my feet on the ground again – the truest of traveling mercies! The ground! Yes.

Well also, I just learned that my Enneagram space is #5, and as a member of the “head triad,” fear is always nipping at my heels. (If you are not familiar with the Enneagram, you should google it.) Nevertheless, I am well accustomed to excessive fight-or-flight adrenaline IV drips. Not good, of course. Adrenaline wasn’t intended for long term use…

I’m on the ground. Life is good. Sunny Florida in January is an amazing mercy! So, let the R&R begin right?

But how do we leave our burdens truly behind? We actually don’t. We bring them with us, unless we have turned them over fully to Christ our Savior. “Fully” being the operative word. Can’t say that I’ve turned over the flying anxieties. But, will work on it.

In all my lovely interconnections and outings with friends, I see those burdens surface time and again. Sometimes I identify with the apostle Paul when, in Romans 9, he expresses sadness for his own people (Jews) in their disconnection from true faith. The “so close, yet so far” syndrome. A form of faith, but denying its substance. Emptiness.

Psalm 37:30-31 says, “The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just. The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip.”

I don’t want the feet of my heart to slip, but rather to be grounded in believing faith in Christ. So much so that my words indicate my affection for my Savior.

I see the sadness. Our words tattle on us. Our words tell what is really inside our hearts. Even the rationalization that makes us believe that we believe in Christ, then our words reveal the opposite. It’s not good. We are haters. We are criticizers. We use profanity. We pick out the faults of others. We don’t put others above ourselves. We offend others. They offend us. We are not satisfied with anything really. We don’t get along very well. Have you ever said life would be great if we didn’t have to put up with people?

The gorgeous Cape Coral sunset is a reminder that, while the sun goes down, it will be followed by a sunrise. A new day. A new start. A chance for the heart to be washed and words to flow out accordingly, regenerated by genuine faith in Jesus, not a facade.

Matthew 13:22 says, in the words of Jesus, “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.”

That sunset reminds me of God’s mercy and care. Solid grounding. Feet firmly planted.

Christmas Would Be Perfect If…

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My Christmas would be Perfect if snow would coat just the trees and rooftops, but not the streets and sidewalks. (I’d like to be able to drive my car.) My Christmas would be Perfect if everyone in my family was healthy. No coughs, no infections, no queasiness, no aches. My Christmas would be Perfect if Christmas goodies didn’t have any calories or consequences for the new year. My Christmas would be Perfect if my whole family could attend a Christmas Eve candlelight service or a world class Christian cantata, together I might add. My Christmas would be Perfect if gift-giving wasn’t laced with the pressures of time and space and expectations and finances. My Christmas would be Perfect if I wasn’t a slave to my own self-centered sense of perfection. My. My. My. Oh my! My Christmas would really be Perfect if I didn’t start every thought or sentence with “My.”

This is not just about getting a mindset-adjustment, but it’s about experiencing a true sense of joy because of what Christmas really is.

There is a great Christmas song by Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant called “Almost There.” The lyrics inspire believers to take Mary’s perspective: “All hope is in the Son…Pray for strength to do your part, You’re almost there…You’re almost where the waiting ends… The answered prayer, Emmanuel…where the journey ends, where death will die and life begins.”

Romans 8:1-4 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Without being able to credit the author, I heard the quote this week that “Christians live twice and die once, and unbelievers die twice and live once.” Is this not an amazing truth?

Psalm 37:18 says, “The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care, and their inheritance will endure forever.” Believers are the “un-condemned.” Believers are eternally secure in God’s love. Believers know why Christmas is so important – an “all year long” reality.

When I think of Emmanuel, I don’t need a Winter Wonderland. While I personally know the One who is the Healer, sickness reminds me that there is hope for the future. When I think of cookies and cakes, I remember the sweetness of the Creator who provided food for our nourishment. When I think of Heaven, I remember the beauty of music and worship without hearing a literal choir. When I think of gifts – I remember that it truly is the loving thoughts that count and have value in eternity.

Emmanuel, “God with us,” is the enduring miracle of Christmas! Real life is the gift we have only in Jesus – “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade (I Peter 1:4).” God’s Spirit gives us assurance that Christmas is not just a dream, but an unimaginable reality. Like Mary, we’re almost there. We’re almost where the waiting ends. Believe.

Every Christmas, I want to put my selfish expectations of perfection into the grip of God’s Word to be overcome by the Spirit of Truth. A Christmas miracle. Like Mary, I am almost there. The prayer has been answered. Emmanuel.