Oppression is Dead; Embracing Peace This Christmas

Tragedies unfold each year pausing for nothing. Heartless shootings that result in lives lost with no cause. The Las Vegas Massacre. The Texas Chruch shooting.Those left behind consumed with grief which feels as if their hearts are being ripped out, no words can describe its depth.

Natural disasters devasting countless people. Leaving communities once thriving fighting to stay alive. Desperately trying to rebuild. Each natural disaster claiming lives. Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Irma. Wildfires in California.

Then the issue of human sin within the truth of Hashtag Me Too. Ugly, heartless sin which begs to be hidden. Revealing the horror humans are capable of. 

Of course, these few things are only the surface of the devastation surrounding us. Financial difficulties, abuse, and relationship issues add to the impact. Additionally, much devastation consumes us. Heartbreak, depression, anxiety, panic attack, grief, and personality disorders. Physical pain with relentless symptoms. Chronic illness which seems to never let up dictating life. 

The hardships are unending. The news reminds us of this often. Is there meaning in life? Any purpose in all the pain? One can even question if there is anywhere safe anymore. It is draining; sucking the joy from us. At times, we feel dead inside, nearly falling apart as the world caves in burying us. 

Where is the peace in all of this devasting chaos? 

The Christmas story is rooted in hardship and in devastating pain. It is not the simple nativity we see so often in our childrens Bible. None of it was easy emotionally or physically for the family of Jesus. It was a difficult journey of fear, anxiety, sadness, and confusion. God came as a helpless baby turning the world upside down. Ultimately, He overcame death by the work of the cross. We celebrate Christmas because of Easter. “Christmas is more than a story about sleigh bells jing-jing-jingling — Christmas is the beginning of the story where death itself gets killed.” God desperately wanted us to encounter true peace rooted in His love. 

_Merry Christmas in it_s original language means all oppression is dead._1

Christmas is the perfect reminder that we are all equal no matter the background, color, or education level we all have a sinful nature in desperate of a Savior. There is peace in the midst of the Christmas season, but it is not found in the lights or getting everything just right. Joy is not found in the decorations or the gifts. 

“God is so moved by our being entangled in suffering — that He moved Himself into our world and entangled Himself in the suffering with us. God with us”.  Peace begins with Christ in the middle of the devastation. It begins with pouring out your heart to Him in a lament. 

It’s not about reciting movie lines but being intertwined with the lines within the Holy Word. Being immersed and consumed by those living Words. “His glory in the highest runs down to meet us who are at our lowest, those left out in the field, those who’ve lost our flock, lost our way, lost our hope, His glory in the highest always runs down to meet us who are at our lowest.”

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We have peace in the anticipation of the work Christ is doing in our hearts this Advent season. Furthermore, it is rooted in the anticipation of Christ return. This peace consumes us when we intently make space for Christ in the midst of the hurry and allows us to put to death our worry. In doing so we cherish each moment and live an abundant life.

Living out peace this Christmas season requires us to extend compassion and grace to one another. “Let us listen to one another in the depths of our suffering and sadness — and  only speak words that make souls stronger.” Living each moment with a thankful heart. Living loved and loving others. 

 

*All Quotes By Ann Voskamp 

 

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A Life of Thanksgiving

Elegant snowflakes dance through the air as November makes a grand entrance. Many people begin to think about the holiday season approaching. The stores are full of ideas and holiday movies are plentiful. Thankfulness creeps into each mind. Even so, people do not give the gift of thankfulness enough thought.

A thankful heart is a joyful heart, furthermore, it opens the door for an abundant life. Thanksgiving is not merely a holiday but a way of daily life. Stopping in the middle of the day to give thanks enables people to slow down.

There are many individuals who give an example of a thankful heart in Scripture like Job, David, and Paul. The prime example being Jesus. I never stopped and took note that before so many miracles, Jesus gave thanks to God. Before the feeding of the five thousand Jesus gave thanks, before speaking to the crowds Jesus gave thanks, and before raising Lazarus from the dead Jesus gave thanks. Undoubtedly, we should follow this example.

Plesant emotions are not a prerequisite to giving thanks. In fact, it is vital to a soul to give thanks during the trails in life. Ann Voskamp shares how Jesus did this the night He was betrayed, “In the midst of what seems a mess, in the tripping up and stumbling down of all hopes” Jesus gives thanks.

Life is bathed with pain. This is why it is vital to learn to give thanks in the middle of each struggle. A few seasons of intense chronic physical pain has personally, changed my perspective in what I give thanks for. Furthermore, I know I cherish things that most young adults do not. There have been times the pain breaks the pain scale. It shoots, stabs, deeply aches, and burns moving me to tears with an occasional yelp. This type of pain is the type that one cannot ignore. In the middle of the intense pain, I can barely whisper thank you, Lord, for holding me now. Thank you, Lord, that You are faithful, You are stronger than any trial, thank you, for getting me though this second, and thank you, for who You are.

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God is waiting to do awe-inspiring things in your life, precious friend as you pause to give thanks. Your thanks is an act of worship and it is an offering. Though this simple act, you will receive the joy of the Lord and life abundantly.

I want to share with you a simple Bible reading plan for the month of November inspired by thankfulness.

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I have been reading A Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I am only about halfway through. Yet it has impacted my understanding and perspective of thanksgiving. If you are not familiar with this book, let me share a few things. Ann has a journal in which she records, beautifully one thousand reasons she is thankful. I am in awe of this discipline, even more so that she pauses in the middle of what she is doing to record something she is thankful for.

The description is as follows, “Drawing heartbreaking beauty out of the simplest of details, Ann Voskamp invites you into her grace–bathed life of farming, parenting, and writing–and deeper still into your own life. Here you will discover a way of seeing that opens your eyes to ordinary amazing grace, a way of living that is fully alive, and a way of becoming present to God that brings you deep and lasting joy.”

In addition, I would like to invite you to record at least ten things you are thankful for during the remainder of 2017. As you read the Scriptures and record your list of blessings take time to also reflect on the character of God.

Spoonful of Spoonie Encouragment

Mornings for those with a chronic illness are a struggle beyond words. Waking up and willing our bodies to function is a fight. Here is a spoonful of encouragement for spoonie warriors. Happy Monday, brave friend!

You have victoriously made it out of bed this morning. The symptoms and pain are already overwhelming, but you’ve got this. You only need to take today one minute at a time. You have all the strength you need, even though it might not seem that way. Anxiety and depression attempt to dictate your day. Take a breath. Take a break.  Get some rest. Keep fighting to make today the best day possible.

You have been chosen to walk this path. It is one filled with heartbreak, disappointment, and setbacks. Walking the path of someone who is chronically ill is a challenge to say the very least. Being sick has most likely disrupted your flawless rhythm with life. It has stopped you dead in your tracks. Your illness has tried to toss your dreams out the window.

Though this path is difficult, I assure you there is a lot of beauty to be discovered. Sure life is not what it used to be, but the song you sing is just as beautiful. There is hope, joy, love, laughter, and life to be found on this path. You will be able to recreate your wonderful dreams. You are still you, despite your illness. You are an amazing and beautiful person with a flawless story and a huge purpose.

    There will be days that you become overwhelmed and feel completely alone. Your feelings are understandable, however, I promise you, you do not walk alone on this path. There are people who care about you, people who understand how difficult the journey is, and people who want to support you.

I am proud of all you have accomplished. I know you will thrive today. This week will be lovely simply because it is the only choice. While you don’t need to be positive all the time you need to take baby steps forward. You are doing amazing. Raise your coffee (or tea) to a great week warrior!

Hope

New Year’s sweet bells of hope ring loudly as January launches. Fervently we compose resolutions so that this year will be astonishing. However, the sweet song evaporates. Leaving us in silence by mid-January as we waltz back into the reliable beat of everyday life. Focus is no longer aimed at hope or the resolutions. Slither into daily calamities, apprehension leeches on, despair dangles overhead, and sorrow is deep.

Providing joy, strength, and adding depth to our relationship with Christ. Despite heartbreak, pain beyond comprehension, and when our world seems to be crumbling before our eyes there is always a spark of hope. It is not always instinct, but then again living the way Jesus called us to is anything but natural. As Christians, we are required to battle our flesh. In addition, we are to fight to remain firm in the hope Christ provides for us. It is a daily fight. Let me assure you, my precious friend that the reward is immeasurable.

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How would you, dear friend define this simple word hope? Appearing frequently, it is engraved on our hearts. Yet we need a reminder of the biblical definition so that we resist conforming to the world’s definition of hope. Additionally, so that we remain steadfast in Christ and transformed by Him.Bible.org defines hope this way, “Hope” in Scripture means “a strong and confident expectation.” Furthermore, there is a clear element of trust throughout Scripture when hope is examined. Moreover, I find it essential to highlight the usage of hope in the New Testament, which I found on Biblestudytools.org. “The New Testament consistently uses the verb elpizo [ejlpivzw] and the noun elpis [ejlpiv”] for hope.” Both words here are Greek.

 

Elpizo is defined as (30 times in NT)1. to hopein a religious sense, to wait for salvation with joy and full confidence2. hopefully to trust in.png

Additionally, hope molds our character, providing joy, peace, confidence, endurance, strength, courage, and comfort. Expanding beyond our dreams when we are consistently feasting on the Word of God. Furthermore, our hope cultivates as we become consumed with the Holy Spirit.Perspectives are transformed by hope as it gives new light to an existing situation. Likewise, it modifies the way we view ourselves, transforms what we value, and affects how we spend the gifts God has graciously entrusted us with such as time and talents.

Practically, how do we remain anchored in hope when our circumstances are screaming give up? When we continue to receive one piece of bad new after another. As mentioned before, we must continuously feast on God’s word. In addition, it is vital to the health of our hope to spend time simply in  Christ presence. Additionally, prayer provides a path to the renewal of hope. Various books, sermons, and worship songs can be an asset. Lastly, we can remain anchored in hope by leaning on Christian friends.

Lord,

Rekindle our weary souls with fresh hope. Fill us with Your HolySpirit. Enable us to have a deeper understanding of Your hope and of who You are. Regardless of what we face enable us to remain steadfast in hope. We praise You for the hope of salvation found in Christ Jesus. Blessed be Your Holy Name.

Amen

 

 

A Reason Why

Maybe there is a reason

For all the storms in life

For all the tears we cry

Maybe there is a reason

For every season

Why flowers bloom

Leaves glide

Snow blankets the Earth

And the sun warms our hearts

Maybe there is a reason

I’m alive

Maybe I have a purpose

Maybe I could change a life

Have you ever thought maybe just maybe

There’s a reason why the sun rises and sets

Why people go through hard times

Why you’re alive

Maybe just maybe there is a reason why