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This post is part of the Deeply Loved Advent Blog Hop series.

A favorite Advent reflection for me is meditating on the many ways Jesus comes to us:  He comes as the Living Word and the Living Water, as the Way, the Truth and the Life, as the Bread of Life and the Light of the World.  And so much more.

One of my favorite ways that Jesus comes is as the real Promise Keeper.

As I have joined with others in going through advent with the Deeply Loved devotional by Keri Wyatt Kent, I loved stopping at day 11 to “Meditate on the Promises of God. “

I promise

And oh what promises our God has made to us:  forgiveness, a relationship with God, abundant life and eternal life, peace, comfort, hope….

And one more that I love: He hears and answers prayer.

(more…)

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My grandboy Carter turns 7 in early January, and birthday gifts are an important topic.  He would love to get GI Joe action figures, a toy gun and a remote control helicopter–and anything he has asked for but doesn’t get for Christmas.

nativity from jerusalem

Of course, we are celebrating a very special birthday just a few days before Carter’s big day.  I wonder what Jesus would ask for, if we asked Him.  Last post we looked at four gifts He has clearly stated He would love to receive.  Today we consider four more gifts that would please our Savior (more…)

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I will never forget the first time my mother came to visit after Steve and I were married.

My mother was an impeccable housekeeper.  I am not.  Everything in her home was clean, neat and in it’s place.  That might have been true in our home right after we moved in, but not since.

So I went into a frenzy trying to restore order, hide messes and clean every inch.  When she arrived I was exhausted.

At this season of Advent we anticipate the arrival of Jesus, the Lamb of God, the King of Glory.

And yet most of us scurry about getting ready for the coming of Christmas, not the coming of Christ.

Just think of it!

Jesus came to earth to be like us so we can be like Him.

Jesus came to visit us to tell us how much He loves us.

Jesus came into the darkness to shine as the light.

Jesus came walking on water, subduing the storms of our lives.

And so much more.

Every day during Advent I will post a very brief reminder of the gift to us that His coming is.

I will also be taking part in an Advent Blog Hop Series, based on Deeply Loved:  40 Ways in 40 Days to Experience the Heart of Jesus by Keri Wyatt Kent.  It is hosted by Angie Mabry-Nauta.

I would also recommend you look at Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent, a “lovely, thoughtful book” by Enuma Okoro.

Most of all, I invite you to welcome Jesus into your heart and life, letting His coming be the center of your Christmas season.

And you don’t have to clean up the house—or your life—first.  He comes to you as you are.

What about you?  How has Jesus come to you lately.

C2012 Judy Douglass

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I’m a mom and a grandmother (Jeedoo is my grandmother name.)  And all you young moms, I know how weary you can be.  But I tell you, I am weary too–and it has to do with the lifelong nature of motherhood.  So I am thrilled to tell you about a wonderful little resource:  Hope for the Weary Mom by Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothlin.  Here’s an offer you can’t refuse.

Do you know what is powerful?

Hope.

“Hope” is the kind of word that makes us close our eyes and think ,“I could use a little bit of that tossed my way.” We need it in the morning when we stir our coffee and we need it as we lay our heads down on our pillows at night to drift off to sleep.

I know a thing or two about needing hope.  Last year I was buried by the task of mothering my four girls. I decided to pour out my heart in a blog post called, “Steve Jobs, Me, and Being Fresh out of Amazing.”  In it I said:

“I’ve pretty much fallen short in every category. I am tired and not really good for much right now. The trouble is, Lord, I need to be amazing and I’m fresh out of amazing. At least it sure feels that way. Lord, I’m dry. Empty. Hit the wall. I got nothing.”

To my surprise this blog post resonated with women. Out of it grew a blog series with my friend Brooke McGlothlin and from that a tiny e-book called “Hope for the Weary Mom” was born. Along the way we found thousands of other moms who said, “I could have written this book.”  The only complaint we received about the e-book was that I wasn’t long enough.  So we decided to expand the original e-book by 50%, add new chapters, resources and a Q&A section. The newly expanded e-book released yesterday on Amazon.

Brooke and I are just two weary moms who met God in the middle of our messy lives and found each other. We are pulling back the veil, sharing real stories from our lives and pointing women to the only source of true hope, Jesus.

Our desire is that every mom who needs it will be able to pick up this new book. We are offering “Hope” today (10/24/2012) free for Kindle readers through Amazon. We actually opened up the free offer yesterday and saw the neatest thing happen. Hope began to spread.

We are trusting God with this message. Hope has always been His idea. He is the one who chose to write the story through us. We are humbled to be used by Him in this way.

You can find your free copy of “Hope for the Weary Mom” here.

While you are at it, why not send it for free to a friend? All you need is her email address to send it.

“See, hope is not a wish or a sprinkle of magical fairy dust. Hope is a person. Hope comes with flesh and blood in Jesus. When I call to Him, He comes quickly,” P.22

Let’s share Hope today and watch what happens.

Stacey is Mikes’s wife and the mother of four vibrant girls. She is a believer and writer who loves God’s Word and connecting with women. You can find her blogging at 29lincoln Avenue and on Facebook and Twitter where she usually hangs out with a cup of coffee in her hand.

Stacey Thacker

blog :: 29lincolnavenue.com

:: a place to grow, connect and encourage hearts

twitter :: stacey@29lincoln

my ebook:  Hope for the Weary Mom is now available on Amazon

:: get my newest resource “What God Wants You to Know” free.

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From time to time I get asked to talk about some of what I have learned in years of ministry leadership.  What are some essentials for being a person who can lead spiritually?

First of all, I know I am inadequate and unworthy for such a calling.  As I have thought about it, it seems that spiritual leadership has a lot to do with whom and what you know.  These ideas, though surely not exhaustive, will help explain what I mean:

Know God

I mean really know Him.  One of the most helpful activities for me has been to study the names of God. It certainly has not been an academic exercise—God reveals what He is like through every name He calls Himself.

As I discover that He is El Elyon the most high God, and He is Abba, my daddy, that He both sees and hears everything about my life—and so much more—I find myself on my face before Him, worshiping Him, talking to Him, listening to Him, thanking Him.

I can know the God who made me!!

Know Yourself

A significant paradox of Christian faith is that you and I are nothing and everything.  Scripture tells us we are nothing—we are made from dust and return to dust, we are like grass, even our substance is just a vapor.  At the same time we are of unimaginable value—made in the image of God, treasured by Him, bought with the price of Jesus’ blood, a partner in the Kingdom-building team!  Both of these truths should remind us of who we are.

Another amazing reality: God was there forming us inside our mothers, and when we were born He declared each a work of art, a masterpiece.  He made us who we are because He loves us and because He designed us just right for the “good works He has prepared for us to walk in.”

Understanding our gifts, our like and dislikes, our strengths and weaknesses will  help us to make wise choices as we consider what opportunities we pursue.

Know Your Culture

Leading spiritually requires understanding of the times in which you live.  A few consistent activities will equip you to engage—and lead—across cultures and generations:

Read—Reading is still essential.  In a visual world, fewer people read.  But we need to know history as well as today’s news and events.   The past always interacts with the present as we move toward the future.  I read blogs, magazines, occasional newspapers—and books.  Reading expands and enriches our thinking.

Listen—Oh how we need to learn to listen!  What are people saying?  What are their concerns, hopes, dreams, fears, struggles…? To touch their lives, we need to know the ways into their lives.

Observe—Go through life with your eyes open, not shut.  Pay attention.  The same truths you learn by listening you will also grasp as you observe the people you interact with, watch online, in movies, on TV.  Ask questions. Make connections.

Technology—In our world, we must engage through technology to some degree at least.  I am so not technological—I have no idea how it works.  And yet it has given me access to people around the world—people I can love and encourage to believe God for the more He wants to do in and through their lives.

Know How To:

Take wise risks—Assess realities, don’t be foolish, but step out into the unknown, the uncertain, the scary with courage and confidence.

Learn from your mistakes—We probably grow more when we fail than when we succeed, if we take time to discern what happened and why.

Value relationships—Life is about people.  Leading is about people.  Meaning comes through relationships.  Give priority to the people in your life.

Grow in the difficult times—I’ve found that God is more committed to my character than to my comfort.  But I’m grateful that He comforts me while He works on my character.

Walk in the Spirit—This is the key, the bottom line.  Scripture reminds us that in ourselves we can do nothing.  But with Him, nothing is impossible.  Jesus sent His Spirit to comfort, to encourage, to teach, to remind, to convict, to change us, to equip, to empower.  Walking consistently in the power of the Spirit is the means to true spiritual leadership.

What about you?  What have you found helps you to grow as a spiritual leader?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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I am a word geek.  I love words.  I can’t remember when I didn’t love words.  Word games.  Crossword puzzles.  Plays on words.  Silly rhymes.  I’ve met very few words I don’t like.

But there are so many words I love! These are just a few of them.

 

Family words

The first is surely my name.  Judy.  My family all just called me Judy.   No nicknames—that I know of.  And my husband always calls me Judy.  I use lots of endearing words for him, but he sticks to my name.  We all love to hear our name—it says we are known, accepted, maybe even treasured.

Oh how I love the word Mom.  My children use all variations (American versions): Mother, Mom, Mama, Mommy.  I answer to all.

And now my grandchildren have given me another wonderful name:  Jeedoo.  Music to a grandmother’s ears:  Jeedoo, tell us a story.

Sisters—I have three of them.  We are so different, but we enjoy each other.  We are about to embark on our biannual get together, this time in North Carolina.  When our mother died, we decided that, unless we were intentional, we might never see each other again.  So first we did Texas, then Colorado.  It’s good to make time for sisters.

Relationship words

Every parent spends years teaching children to say Please and Thank you.  Those little ones do it out of obedience, then habit.  And hopefully at some point from the heart, realizing that these polite words show respect to others.

Good job!  We love to hear that—especially from someone whose opinion matters.  When a parent or a teacher or a coach or a boss truthfully says these affirming words, we gain new confidence.  We believe we can do more, even anything we try.

I’m sorry and I forgive you, unfortunately, are often needed but too seldom heard.  But regret and sorrow for words or actions, when expressed sincerely, pave the way for healing and restoration.

I love you.  Oh the magic words!  Given to a child, offered to a friend, whispered to a lover.  Few words, genuinely spoken, bring more joy, hope, affirmation, contentment.  Surely we can say it more than we do. One of my greatest gifts is a husband who tells me he loves me many times a day.

God words

God is also very fond of words.  He spoke and the worlds were formed.  He wrote thousands of words in the Scriptures.  And He sent Jesus as the Word made flesh.

One of my favorite words from God is love.  His Word is filled with this word.  Over and over He declares His love for you and for me.  Then he proves it!  What amazing love!

Truth.  God’s love requires that He tell us the truth.  Sometimes that truth is uncomfortable, even unwanted.  But He assures us that His truth will set us free.

A God word I couldn’t live without is mercy.  I thought I would be further along by now, and maybe my sins aren’t so “big” as they once were.  But there they are,  day by day, reminding me of mercy purchased at such a high price.

And my favorite God word?  Surely it is grace.  The extravagant gift God lavishes on us, undeserved, abundant, even scandalous—I am so grateful.

Of course there are so many more.  Let me close with three more of my favorite words:  God bless you!

What about you?  What are some of your favorite words?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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One of the best things about Facebook is wonderful encouragement from my friends.  A week ago I was having a bit of a hard time with several things going on in my life.  So I asked my Facebook friends:  What are your favorite, most helpful verses on trusting or resting or releasing?

I received responses from around 35 people—wonderful life-giving words.  Here are a few of them to hopefully lift and encourage you as well:

Kari andAnita:  I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. (Psalm 27:13,14)

Sara:  “… if our God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31)

Carol: God has said, “I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down nor relax My hold on you–assuredly not!  (Hebrews 13:5b Amplified Bible)

Kar-Lei and Carmelita:  “My help comes from the Lord,who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber….The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand….The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore. (Psalm 121:1-8)

Robin:  “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” (Psalm 56:3)

Naty:  “The Lord will vindicate me; your love, Lord, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands. (Psalm 138:8)

Jeanie:   Jesus said, “Come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your soul.”  (Matthew 11:28-29)

Joy:  “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

Nelly:  “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Roman 8:28)

Catherine:  “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord is the One who goes before you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

Zillah: “I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces will never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.  O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! O fear the Lord, you His saints; for to those who fear Him there is no want.  The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing. (Psalm 34:4-10)

And one of my all-time favorites:

“…so do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

So, if worry and fear have trapped you, if you are weary in the battle, if you are struggling to trust God in a situation, may these words from our God strengthen, encourage and refresh you.

What about you?  What Scripture has God used to give you peace and hope?

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Manna.

“What is it?” the children of Israel asked?  “Bread from Heaven,”  the Lord told them.

“It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey… the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt.” (Exodus 16:31-32)

I feel like I’ve been walking in the wilderness lately, and God has sent me bread from Heaven.  The encouraging, sustaining words from some of my praying friends are strengthening me in the journey.

May you be refreshed and strengthened with their holy sustenance:

You are not alone. You are an encouragement to many. This e-mail encouraged me and I will pray that you reap what you sow–a hundred fold.

Thank You Lord that You continue to hold us in Your loving arms through all of our valleys and mountaintop experiences.

Prayers continue and know that you have done all that you could and God has to do the rest as you rest in Him.

A mother’s heart feels the pain her child goes through.

His Grace is sufficient.  We are humans.  Relinquishment is required.

“…just as we must learn to obey God one choice at a time, we must also learn to trust God one circumstance at a time.  Trusting God is not a matter of my feelings but of my will….” by Jerry Bridges

Praying for peace and comfort with all that is feeling like a loss in the moment.  May the LORD do exceedingly, abundantly above all you could ask or think.  We serve a God of miracles.

The truth is, “old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.” In my life it is more like they are becoming new. Praying for (him) to walk in newness of life as he draws closer to the Comforter in his pain.

I know about control and struggle with it in many areas of my life.  Giving God total control of (my daughter) scared me… I finally understood that God wanted to change me too.  This wasn’t just about her.  Do I like going through the wilderness deeper and deeper and feeling like progress she made is all gone to waste?? NO….  Am I the same person I was 4 years ago? Thankfully, NO! …Do (her choices) keep me awake at night?? Very few nights, I am happy to say, because when I go back to my old habits of trying to manipulate and control the situation, I look at scriptures and sayings I have written down to remind myself that God has this!

May His goodness surprise you today!

What about you?  What manna has refreshed and sustained you?

c2012 Judy Douglass

Related articles:

A Wilderness Experience: Loving Prodigals, Release, & Rest

In the Wilderness: Words of Encouragement and Admonition

When Faith Falters: Relearning Rest

 

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Please welcome Redbud Writer Dorothy Greco as a guest writer on Kindling today.  I love what she has to say about forgiveness.

True confession: I was venting, maybe even railing, yesterday during the time I had set aside to be still and try to connect with God. Due to some unfortunate and protracted circumstances, I feel backed against a concrete wall with no visible form of egress. And I’ve been in this position for too many months to count.

As I was detailing my complaints and the impossibility of the situation to God, I lofted a simple question in his general direction, “What do you want me to do?” God’s response? “Forgive them.” (For those of you who don’t buy the possibility of connecting to God in this way, I realize that sharing this dialogue may damage my credibility. Hold off on coming to any negative conclusions until you read through to the end. Then, feel free.)

In the gospel of Matthew, Peter inquires of Jesus, “How many times shall I forgive my brother or sister when they sin against me? Seven time?” I’m certain that Peter assumed others would find him quite magnanimous for his suggestion. Jesus multiplies Peter’s figure by 70. A shocking number given its application.

My husband and I have been married for more than 20 years now. I don’t think we would have lasted more than two if we did not admit our mistakes and forgive each other. We tend to be quick to do so, fully understanding that delays potentially widen the chasm between us. Over the course of these 20+ years, we have probably each wronged and forgiven one another at least 490 times.

It’s really not that remarkable because we always (well mostly always) admit when we have failed one another and ask each other for the gift of forgiveness. Given the current mess, I find myself wondering, did Jesus leave any loopholes for situations where the one who wrongs me fails to see or admit their mistakes?

The process of forgiving someone does not deny that an offense was perpetrated, even though that’s how modernity most often views it. Many years ago, I had an assignment to photograph a top executive. His assistant repeatedly communicated, “You will only have 15 minutes with him. You have to be completely ready when he walks in the door.” Being the obedient type, I was ready and promptly waited for more than an hour. He waltzed in and breezily said, “Sorry for being late.”

Normally, when we find ourselves in such predicaments, we try to make the offender feel better by saying, “That’s OK,” even though normally it isn’t OK. Since he had inconvenienced me, I sincerely responded, “I forgive you.” Dead silence. Then he narrowed his eyes and nearly hissed, “Who gave you the power to forgive me?” I balked. Was he inviting a theological debate or asking a rhetorical question? I ventured in and humbly explained that I believed Jesus gives us authority to extend forgiveness when someone hurts or wounds us. And then I apologized if my beliefs offended him – he was Jewish after all. He softened and miraculously, the shoot went well.

By dropping the charges against those who have sinned against us, we are not excusing their actions, minimizing the damages, or as many fear, opening ourselves up to further mistreatment. We actually go on the offensive, spiritually speaking, when we choose to cancel the offender’s debt particularly when the other refuses to see that their actions or words have stung, or in some cases, drawn blood.

Un-forgiveness is like a land mine. The anger, frustration, hurt, and confusion all serve as explosives packed tightly together with a short fuse. One false move and we all blow. (It’s messy but does have moments of carnal satisfaction!) I’m not proud to admit that I sometimes find excuses for not forgiving. I feel somehow justified because, after all, THEY wronged me! Jesus doesn’t seem to share my perspective. In his economy, holding onto wrongs ultimately leads to death via bitterness, health issues1, and fractured relationships. Not great options.

Conversely, forgiveness disarms the mines. Forgiveness lifts us above the fray and permits us to gain objectivity and sometimes, even empathy for the one who has wounded us. In light of this, I would be a fool to resist God’s directive. Perhaps the suggestion to forgive was his way of dropping a ladder over the concrete walls that have become my prison. Though it would be infinitely more satisfying to have the ones who wounded me at the top of the wall, extending their hands to help me over, I can’t wait for them. Hand over hand, I’m climbing out.

Dorothy Greco is an extraordinary photographer who also writes.  She lives with her husband and three sons outside Boston.  You can see more of her beautiful work at http://www.dorothygrecophotography.com/

1 According to an article in the January 2004 issue of Harvard Women’s Health Watch, forgiving those who hurt you can improve your mental and physical wellbeing. http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/power_of_forgiveness and from the Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/forgiveness/MH00131

Photo by Dorothy Greco

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Please welcome Redbud Writer Karen Yates to Kindling.  I think you will like what she has to say.

I ran away for the first time when I was five years old.  I packed a little purse of a few stuffed animals and made it as far as the house two doors down, the home of my friends Ericka and Laura.  Their mother called my mother.  Running away morphed into a glorified playdate, complete with dress up, giggles, and a sugary treat.

When my mom picked me up, the only reminder of my running away was FeeFee, my stuffed hippo, stashed away in a little handbag.  And my parents that night, telling me how much they would have missed me while I was gone.

Truth is, I have always been a runner.  As I matured, running turned into ‘pulling back,’ which sounded more reasonable, but was of the same genre.   Bottom line is, when it gets too close, too scary, too overwhelming, I collapse in, pull back, withdraw, or run.

I take comfort in knowing that, no matter how much I run, how much I pull back, my Heavenly Father is there.  I simply cannot run from Him because I am in Him and He is in me.  He is with me when I am grounded, and He’s with me when I’m afraid: “Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139: 7-10).

There is no running from Him because I have been grafted in—I’m a co-heir—I’m a member of His Body: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15: 4a, 5).  Is there anywhere I, the branch, can go, even if I’m withered from worry and fear, even if I try to escape, that is not connected to the Vine?  No! We are attached—He and I.

This realization that I am connected to a Source that never runs dry, to a river that reaches every secret hiding spot of my flesh and sin, brings great comfort.  And overwhelming joy.  Perhaps the bigness of God, the fact He is with me everywhere, should make me afraid.  But in actuality, I genuinely and sincerely do not want to be alone.  I crave His comfort.  I long for His peace to rush into me.  I desire intimacy and community and confidence.

One of my favorite books is Hudson Taylor’s biography, “Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret.”  In it he describes the joy of realizing his true identity in the Vine.

  . . . It is a wonderful thing to be really one with a risen and exalted Savior, to be a member of Christ! Think what it involves. Can Christ be rich and I poor? Can your right hand be rich and your left poor? Or your head be well fed while your body starves?

The sweetest part, . . . is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this; for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest position He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient. .. His resources are mine, for He is mine, and is with me and dwells in me.

Are you a runner too?  Do you find you pull back in times of fear, worry, or pressure?  What can you do to remember that you are connected to the True Vine? 

Karen Yates lives in Orange County, CA and is a partial homeschooling mother of 3 children. With a BA in English from Westmont College, Karen has worked for 12 years in the Christian non-profit sector, is an adoption advocate, blogger, and member of the Redbud Writers Guild. She blogs at www.KarenEYates.com and tweets: @KarenYates11.

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