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What Can I Give Him?

“What can I give Him,

Poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd

I would bring a lamb,

If I were a wise man

I would do my part.

Yet what can I give Him?

Give my heart.”

–Christina Rossetti

In my former church we sang this poem/song every Christmas.  It asks a great question.  At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus and give each other gifts.  It is only reasonable to consider what we might give Jesus for His birthday.

nativity ornament

He has given us some solid clues.  I will describe four of them in this post and four more in my next post.

I think Jesus would be so grateful for these gifts (more…)

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As parents we have responsibility to love, nurture, provide, teach and train our children to become responsible, moral, hardworking, creative, authentic adults and contributors to society. Most of us try to do something like that, with varying degrees of competency and success.

But I’ve found that God seems to have an equally important role for our children in our lives. I will try to share a few of the things my kids have taught me. This lesson comes from my #3 child, Joshua

My grandchildren—and their parents before them—always love a carousel.  It’s fun—for them and for me to see their joy—but it just keeps going around, again and again.

I’ve always been a slow learner—in lessons that matter.  I think it has to do with my stubbornness, my lifelong journey toward surrendering my way and choosing God’s way.  So I seem to spend a lot of time on the carousel—learning the same things again and again.

Our son, Joshua, now 30, was God’s sharp instrument to teach me some invaluable truths in the years of his teenage (and longer) wilderness:

God never gives up on me.

So often I was ready to give up—because of many choices he made.  This became clearest to me through homeschooling, which we were doing in hopes that he might actually graduate.  But he really wasn’t interested.

I would give him his assignments, listen to his arguments, and walk out of his room almost every day saying the same thing:  “I give up.  He doesn’t care—why should I?”  And every day God responded with the same words:  “Have I ever given up on you, Judy?” “Never, Lord.” “And I need you to not give up on Josh.”

So I kept going, and he graduated from high school with a B average.  For which he is grateful.

I am weak and prayer is my strength.

Those were hard years, filled with lots of tears and fears.  Nothing we tried seemed to help Josh make better choices for his life.  We were desperate.

So we did what most people do when they are desperate.  We prayed.  I’m sure our prayers had significant impact on Josh—God was very creative.  But I’m also sure that our prayers had even more significant impact on our lives—especially mine.

Prayer became not just frequent conversations with God, telling Him how I was doing and what I needed.  Prayer became my life breath.  It became a constant communion with God, pouring out my heart, listening to what He was saying, surrendering my requests/demands to His will.  Prayer became my response to His invitation, my resting in His welcoming arms.

I am so grateful.

Unconditional love doesn’t require love in return.

One of the joys of parenting young children is all the hugs, kisses and love they usually give.  By the time they are teenagers we can’t always count on that, and we miss it.  Josh, though, had a prior allegiance to the birth mother he spent his first eight years with.  He couldn’t betray her by loving me

I understood that.  I was patient.  My love for this boy God had entrusted to us grew and expanded.  And eventually I yearned to hear him say, “I love you.”  I begged God to open his mouth to say those words.

So clearly, though, God said, “Judy, by definition unconditional love doesn’t require love in return.  If he never says ‘I love you’ to you, I am calling you and enabling you to keep on loving.”  So I kept loving, not perfectly of course, but perseveringly.

It took 13 years before he could say those words.  I am so grateful I waited.

These lessons have been so real to me—over time and with people and in trials. They speak to core issues of my trust in God. Mostly I have remembered them and recognized the truths as still true—and reckoned them as reality—by the power of the Spirit—in my life.

But the past six months have felt like we have gone back 10 years, like I have forgotten those lessons, like I am starting over.  We have gone through some hard things, and some of my same old responses have surfaced.

I have felt like giving up.  And God has said, “I still haven’t given up on you.  Keep believing.”

I have felt my weakness, and once again prayer has been a source of strength.

My loving and giving have felt unappreciated, and Jesus said He understands.

Yes, as parents we teach our children so much.  But I think God uses them to teach us even more.  And if I seem to have gone from Lesson 101 in some areas to 201 and 801…it should be not surprise me that some of the same challenges with our children come around again.

I’m ready to get off the carousel.  Probably the roller coaster is next.

What about you?  What lessons are you still learning?

C2012 Judy Douglass

.Related articles:

Go Low–A Path to Selflessness

It’s Okay Not to Speak French

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God scatters blessings to his people throughout Scripture and throughout our lives.  And He gives us the command and the privilege to bless others.  I love to write blessings for people.  So here is my blessing for you, my readers.

May you rise when you fall and come out of the darkness into God’s light.  (Micah 7:8,9)

May you be built up, not torn down; planted, not uprooted.  May you turn to God with all your heart. (Jeremiah 24:6,7)

May you hope in the future of God’s good plans for you. (Jeremiah 29:11)

May you comprehend that it gives God joy to always do good to you. (Jeremiah 32:40)

May you receive the new heart and new spirit God is giving you.  (Ezekiel 36:26,27)

May nothing of the world, the flesh or the devil satisfy you, but only God. (Psalm 90:14)

May all the days and years of your life stolen by the evil one be restored. (Joel 2:25)

May the comfort, peace and healing of God bring praise to your lips. (Isaiah 57:18,19)

May you feel cords of lovingkindness as the Father bends down to feed you. (Hosea 11:4)

May God pour out His Holy Spirit on you. (Joel 2:28)

May you know that in Christ Jesus there is no condemnation. (Romans 8:1)

May you be convinced that nothing can separate you from the love of God. (Romans :38,39)

May the eyes of your heart be enlightened that you might know Him. (Ephesians 1:18)

May God surprise you with blessings beyond what you can ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)

What about you?  How has God blessed you?

c2012 Judy Douglass

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Life includes plenty of pain.  Much of it comes from the realities of life in a fallen world:  illness, accidents, natural disasters, financial crashes…

Sadly, too often, our pain is caused by other people.  I am horrified at what people will choose to do to each other:  theft, lies, abuse, slavery, rape, sexual trafficking, torture…

But the most painful is usually that inflicted by those we love—and we think love us.  That pain is often unbearable, barely endured, deeply grieved, scarcely survived.

God’s Word has given me real help.  I may not be able to control the cause of my pain, but I can choose how I respond.

So here are some responses that have made a difference for me.

1.  Tell God the Truth

How do I feel about what this person has done to me?  God knows what is in my heart and mind, and He can handle my rawest emotions.  I tell Him the truth.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. “ (John 4:23)

 2.  Thank God in the pain, the hurt, the person who has hurt me.

Thanking God helps to refocus my mind and heart.  It tells God that I know He is God and He is good.  And giving thanks opens the door for what God wants to do in the situation.

“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

(More on giving thanks: In All Things)

3.  Look for the good that God is doing.

Sometimes the good is hiding for a later time, but often I can see glimpses of positive results:  changes in my life or the life of the one who hurt me; insight into my past and my future; resolution of unhealed wounds; opportunities to encourage others.

“I will never stop doing good to them…” (Jeremiah 32:40)

4.  Forgive the one who hurt me.

Really?  Do they deserve to be forgiven?  Probably not.   But I’ve been given repeated admonitions to forgive and a powerful model.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’” (Luke 23:34)

(Some help: A Prayer for Forgiving)

5.  Bless the person who hurt me.

Once again, God is clear in His impossible requirements.  He tells me to bless my enemies, and yes, even this one I love feels like an enemy when he hurts me.

My tendency is to strike out verbally, to accuse, to blame—to curse.  But God says to leave the consequences to Him—He is a much better justice maker than I am.  When I choose to bless, amazing things happens—my attitude begins to change, the person receives my blessing and that blessing invariably comes back to me.

Jesus:  “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.“   (Luke 6:28)

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9)       

(More on blessing:  Scattering Blessings) 

When I do these things, does the hurt go away?  Not usually.  But these responses open my heart and mind to receive the love and grace God wants to pour all over me.  And grace and love are powerful healers.

What about you?  How does God help you when you have been hurt by someone you love?                         

C2012 Judy Douglass

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Today’s our anniversary.  Thirty-seven years ago Steve and I said “I do” on the lawn of the Arrowhead Springs Hotel.  Bill Bright officiated at the wedding.  Family and friends celebrated with us.

And we are still together.  Three children added incredible joy and a few real challenges to our lives.  Now all three children are married to spouses we love, and the four (almost five) grandchildren have greatly enriched our lives.

But the best of all is being married to this man.  Let me tell you why!

He loves God.

It is wonderful to partner with a man who loves God above all—even more than He loves me.  He seeks, listens, follows, obeys our Lord on a moment-by-moment level.  I could go on.

Thai Cooking School

He loves me.

He has always loved me well.  But in recent years he has increasingly shown what it means to love like Christ loves, to sacrifice for me, to give preference to me.  I marvel at his goodness to me.  I could go on.

He serves me.

His favorite way to serve me is to fix my coffee in the morning, bring it to me and keep my cup filled.  But there are so many other ways:  He always washes the dishes after meals, he usually beats me to doing the laundry, he picks up the house (I am more tolerant), he does our finances (probably in self defense), he gets the oil changed on my red Mustang convertible…. I could go on.  I feel so pampered.

He believes in me.

I do think he thinks I can do anything.  He has more confidence in me than I do.  I have taken faith risks because he was sure I should/could.  He is always saying, “You can do that.”  He has always helped with the kids,  agreed to expenditures, come along to pray for my ministry opportunities.  And he listens to me—ideas, passions, concerns.  I could go on.

He encourages me.

As the more emotional one of us (understatement), I sometimes get down or discouraged or overwhelmed.  Always he is there with attention, comfort, perspective—or an invitation out to dinner.  He has learned not to try to solve every problem, except when I ask for help.  He is so good at believing the best and helping me to also.  He is so wise.  I could go on.

At CSU

He considers me a true partner.

We have always done our marriage together.  For our walk with God, in our living and loving together, in parenting, in ministry, we are partners.  We each have our responsibilities, our strengths, our contributions.   We think, plan, study the Word, pray, work as a team.  This is a great high performance team!  I could go on.

Oh yes.  He fixes things.

The only things I can fix are words, and maybe feelings.  But he can fix almost anything.  When it breaks, I buy new.  He repairs.  And he loves it—thinking of creative ways to solve a problem.   Ask about lawn mowers and irons. I could go on.

Oh the differences!

He’s steady, I’m volatile.  He’s contained, I’m emotional.  He’s always cold, I’m always hot.  He is thrifty, I could give it all away.  He says “no” better than I do, but not a great strength for either of us.  He likes movies, I like books.  He thinks strategically, I think compassionately. I could go on.

And the oneness.

God is so creative:  We have the same passion for the Lord and for our family.  We both love to stay home when we can.   We don’t like wasting time, but we can relax.  We love to be together, but are okay to be apart.  We don’t really like traveling, but will go anywhere to serve the Lord and our staff.

Okay.  I could go on.  But I won’t

Thank You, Lord.  I am so blessed and so grateful!

c2011 Judy Douglass

en español:  Tributo a mi Esposo

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Debbie, Josh, Michelle

I have received many wonderful Mother’s Day Gifts from my three children—and I have been grateful for each one.  But they have given me gifts they didn’t even know, and those have been the best of all.  I’m sure I could think of dozens, but here are 7 life-changing presents from my two daughters and my son.

1.  Gratitude

I never get over that God would entrust these little lives to me.  As Debbie and Michelle were born, and as Josh came as a 9-year-old, I have found myself overwhelmed that God gave me such gifts.   And as they have grown up, I have realized what transforming gifts they have been.  Thank You, Lord.

2.  Humility

I knew parenting would be challenging, but I had no idea how totally inadequate I was.  On the days of their births, and every day since, I have been over my head.  So humbling.  Gratefully I have had family, friends and books to help.   But most of all, God has been there every step of the way, giving wisdom, encouragement, strength, love and everything else I have needed.  The humility, of course, is still in process.

3.  Selflessness

I had children later in life, and I thought I had, for the most part, grown out of my adolescent self-focus.  But when I took Debbie, my lovely first child, home, I discovered I knew nothing about selflessness.  Any newborn takes more time, attention, care, patience—everything—than you can imagine.

But Debbie had 24-hour colic and rarely slept.  She required all of me.  For several months there was almost no opportunity for me to focus on myself.  Thank you, Debbie, for taking me giant leaps forward in learning to get over my self-centeredness.  Still growing, of course.

4.  Forgiveness

We all make many mistakes in our parenting.  I have made more than my share.  A few years ago my husband’s radio program was doing a surprise program on our family.  They asked  each of our children what they had learned from us.  Michelle said, “From my mom I learned to ask for forgiveness.”

You see, Michelle approaches life differently than I do, and too often I tried to squeeze her into the mold of my life.   So I often had to ask her for forgiveness.  Which she generously gave.  Thank you, Michelle, for forgiving and for teaching me to ask for that mercy.

5.  Perseverance

Rearing children is a long process.  Though supposedly we have completed our assignment in 18-22 years, those of us beyond that know we never really stop being mothers.  There are many normal days, frequent times of celebration and rejoicing, and always some difficult days.

Because Josh came to us from a difficult situation, he brought with him many challenges.  His challenges, of course, became ours.  We and he had many hard days and hard years as he grew out of that troubled boyhood into the man he has become.  Thank you, Josh, for helping me to learn to never give up, to be tenacious, to persevere.

6.  Prayer

I knew how to pray.  I had been a child of God, and serving in ministry, for many years when my first child was born.  Of course I knew how to pray.

But as each child revealed my inadequacy and my weaknesses, as their needs required more wisdom than I had, as life for all of us included pain and trial, I have learned to go to my Father.  To tell Him how I feel, to express what I think I—and my children—need, to pour out my heart, to beg and plead, to thank Him.  I find my prayers are best prayed with open hands—not holding on to my demands, but allowing God to take out and put in His best answers.  Thank you, Debbie, Michelle and Josh, for teaching me to really pray.

7.  Love

Of course we love our children.  As we carry them for 9 months, when they are first placed in our arms, or if they come to us some other way, we are amazed at the intensity of the love we feel for them.

But life tests that love.  Especially when they aren’t always lovable.  When they are whiny and crabby.  When nothing you do satisfies.  When they are disobedient, even defiant.  When they make increasingly bad choices.  And especially when they yell hateful words at us and reject us and what we stand for.

When those things happen—and they did—God reminded me that unconditional love , by definition, keeps loving no matter what they say or do, or even if they don’t love in return.  Thank you, my wonderful children, for being God’s instruments for me to learn to receive and live out His unconditional love.

Debbie, Michelle and Josh, thank you for being God’s good gifts to me.  And as each of you has entered into this wonderful parenting and journey, may God surprise you with the transforming gifts those children will be to you.  I love you.

What about you?  What gifts have others given you?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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In my previous post, I introduced you to Just Jesus, a new devotional by my friend Lindsay Clifford.  It’s just what it says:  just the words of Jesus.  It is in two parts:  The first half is everything that Jesus said, in order, through the New Testament.  The second half is done by topics, with just the words Jesus spoke.

I read through the entire second half, letting sweet Jesus speak to me over and over.   In the last post I shared with you a few of the encouraging words He said to me.  Today I am reminding you of some of Jesus’ more challenging words.  The truth is, there were more challenging words than encouraging ones.  I am grateful He promises to enable what He requires.

These are not exhaustive or comprehensive.  Each point He makes is repeated several times.  Not one of these is isolated—each is part of a pattern.  All of them could fall under the concept of Jesus’ call to each of us:  Follow Me.  So I start with that, then share a few other categories.  I end with a broad topic of Live It Out.

Enjoy—and be challenged.

Follow Me

Come, follow me, Jesus said, and I will send you out to fish for people.  (Matthew 4:19)

Follow me, Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. (Mk 2:14)

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.  What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? (Luke 9:23-24)

Truly I tell you, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)

Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.  (Mark 10:21)

Love

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.  (Mark 12:29-31)

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  (Matthew 5:44)

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.  (John 13:34-35)

Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:12-13)

Forgive

I tell you, (you must forgive) not seven times, but seventy-seven times.  (Matthew 18: 22)

Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them. (Luke 17:4)

Give

It is more blessed to give than to receive. ( Acts 20:35)

Freely you have received; freely give. (Matthew 10:8)

Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on. (Mark 12:43-44)

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  (Luke 12:33-35)

Serve

You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.   Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. ( Mark 10:42-45)

Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.  (Mark 9:35)

The greatest among you will be your servant.  For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:11-12)

Have Compassion (which Jesus demonstrated repeatedly)

I have compassion for these people… (Mark 8:2-3)

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 21:40)

Live It Out

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  (Luke 4:18-19)

 Everything is possible for one who believes. (Mark 9:23)

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3-4)

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  (John 15:5)

Each tree is recognized by its own fruit.  (Luke 6:44)

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  (Luke 6:36)

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  (John 10:11)

Do to others as you would have them do to you.  (Luke 6:35)

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. …. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. (Luke 6:27-30)

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.  (Matthew 4:17)

What about you?  Which of these words capture your heart and mind?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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