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Today as we celebrate “SweetBabyJesus”, we must also remember that He was a man!
From the cradle in a manger to the cross on Calvary, Jesus came to earth, humbled Himself to the point of death, serving as a sacrifice for my sins and yours. He was resurrected and one day that same Jesus is coming back to judge the living and the dead and will be chauffeuring those of us who believe in Him to His after-party in Paradise—FOREVER. Mmmm…yes, please! :)
Call me crazy but this reminds me (once again) of the movie Elf:
The manager of the store where Buddy is working says, “Okay people, tomorrow morning, 10AM, Santa’s coming to town.” Buddy responds by screaming, “SANTAAA! OH MY GOD! Santa’s Coming! I know him. I KNOW HIM!!”
Why was Buddy so excited? Because he KNEW Santa. He belonged to Santa. Buddy was one of Santa’s elves!
Similarly, Jesus is our great Shepherd and we are His sheep. His children. His beloved. We belong to Him! And He desires to know us…not that we just know about Him…but know Him. Personally. Intimately.
Buddy knew Santa because he had spent every day with him, talked to him, grew up with him. If we knew Jesus, like Buddy knew Santa, we should be just as excited at the thought of His visit!
Tonight I took some moments to sit in silence. As I thought about the things I share with you, I must humbly admit I don’t consider Jesus’ return nearly as often as I should.
But now, reflecting on the life of Christ this Christmas—from His birth to His death to His resurrection and to the hope we have of Him coming back—well, it makes me want to live differently.
It makes me want to treat my time, my thoughts, my money, my words, and the people in my life, better, wiser, more prayerfully, more passionately. I need to treat them in whatever way is going to make a difference in God’s Kingdom. Not how it will make a difference for me, but for eternity.
So here I am, realizing if my boss told me that Jesus was “coming tomorrow, 10am” I know exactly what I would get crack-a-lackin on! And that scenario in my head of what I would go straight to work on reveals to me the things that truly matter.
As we celebrate Christmas we are reminded that Jesus was also called Emmanuel which means God with us. Even if Jesus doesn’t choose to return for us tomorrow, He is here among us now. His Word is living and breathing. His Spirit is able to dwell within us.
So, let’s make this Christmas matter by connecting with the One who came to earth for your freedom, life and wholeness. Live for the One who died for you. I want to connect with, live for and know Jesus so intimately that I respond to His name, just as Buddy the Elf responded to the name of Santa: jumping, squealing, screaming, smiling, unable to contain excitement.
He loves you and wants you to join His party this holiday…and He wants to add your name to His VIP list for the eternal afterparty!
MERRY CHRISTMAS, MY FRIENDS!
THANKS FOR JOINING ME IN THIS JOURNEY TOGETHER!!
(reblog from Christmas week 2010)
I write to you as I sit in the upper room of my parents’ home, looking down at the infant boy sleeping next to me. The beauty of my son astounds me. And I am not a “baby person” if you know what I mean. But that piece doesn’t come into play when you have had this precious one forming inside of your womb for nine months.
I will never forget when one of my best friends shared with me her confidence that God knew what He was doing to have us carry our children inside of us for so long: in that time He was teaching us to love this child, helping us to get to know him, giving us time to grow together in anticipation for the grand arrival. I love that.
I’ll be honest, though. I hate being pregnant. Ask any of my closest friends and they will tell you, along with stories that probably shouldn’t be shared. It’s painful, annoying, makes me feel gross and it always feels like it will never end. Thats just the tip of the iceberg for me. I will spare you graphic detail. But inasmuch as I hate it, I know what comes out of this season of discomfort… I’ve done it twice now… I will do it again… (hopefully not anytime soon though) because what results is beauty beyond measure, love unspeakable and an incredible life story beginning to be written.
But, without the pregnancy, no life results. Someone has to make room inside.
I reflect on how Mary and Joseph must have felt as they were awaiting the birth of their newborn son, Jesus Christ. The One whose life story would rewrite history. His every word, every move, God-breathed. His life… recorded for you and me.
I reflect on the fact that it is only because of this story of His life, death and resurrection that my life has any meaning at all. It is only because of Jesus that I can truly heal, find hope, freedom, be forgiven and in turn forgive. It is only because of Jesus that I begin to understand love. It is only because of Jesus that I can testify that the most rotten evil intended to break, destroy and devour you and me can instead be turned into something beautiful and glorious, turning darkness to light and setting captives free.
Oh, the birth of Jesus… He came so that our lives would have new meaning. But like Mary, we have to make room for Him inside of us. Like the animals in the manger, we have to make room for Him in our homes. And if we want to experience His healing, His transforming power and His love in such a way that our hurts and hangups become rewritten, we have to make room for Jesus to walk with us on our healing path, too.
“Everyone walks through the fire of adversity, but whatever your experiences - joys or sorrows - our amazing God can use every bit of your life to produce the most unexpected results.” -Jason Crabb
This is a process… His work in our hearts and lives and relationships takes time. Just as He started out as tiny SweetBabyJesus, so does our personal healing journey and our ministry to others begin small and, with time, room and perseverence, grow. We will experience pain, hurt, confusion, exhaustion and the like. But because of Jesus, we do not lose hope. Something greater is coming from all this!
“All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us from within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, anymore than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.” Romans 8:22-25 (The Message)
So do not be discouraged if this journey seems long. Do not lose hope if you are experiencing pain or frustration along the way. Do not be letdown if the road before you seems dimly lit. God is always at work. He is always guiding us and growing us. Preparation takes time and takes development and requires us to give it more room. Christ’s coming is proof of that and His return will be the final say. Until then, let yourself be enlarged, allow God to grow you, develop you and mold you during this waiting period. He holds your hand during the painful parts and carries you when you feel too heavy to walk. He will do a bigger work in you and through you than you can even imagine right now. But we must make room for Him.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices!
(reblogged from December 2010, hence the newborn baby references)
Call it like it is.
I am sitting in my living room, next to the baby swing, hoping the constant movement along with soft Christmas music playing in the background will put my 3 month-old to sleep so I can get a moment of “Nicole time.” It’s not working, by the way. But the song playing right now is telling me that “it’s the most wonderful time of the year”; more than that, I’m also being informed that it’s “the hap-happiest season of all.”
Who knew?! I guess this guy hasn’t heard any of your stories.
Now, I don’t want to come across as a Debbie Downer, because I personally love Christmas! I could write a great deal about the goodness of the season (and I will, so stay tuned), but I also strive to be real and relevant, especially for the sake of those who are hurting. This is why I felt it necessary to devote time and attention, during these two weeks leading into Christmas, to the fact that it truly is not the most wonderful time of the year for many people. For some of you, it may even be the most lonely, anxiety-stricken and painful memory-ridden season of all.
And that’s okay.
It’s NOT okay that you went through some incredibly painful stuff that wasn’t your fault and that you never deserved; but it IS okay to acknowledge that the holidays aren’t easy for you because of that.
Don’t give in to the mask-wearing, people-pleasing, painted-on-smile that we see all too often. If you are having a hard time, say so! If you are struggling to get through this holiday season—for whatever reason it may be—don’t shove it down any longer. The stress, anxiety, fear, sadness, anger, bitterness, etc is gonna come out eventually anyway. Let it come out on your own accord. Be willing to admit you need a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, a helping hand, or maybe even a little getaway.
Being real with those you trust is important to getting through this busy season. It will help ensure that your wrapping doesn’t come undone before Santa’s bag of goodies ever get here.
During the holiday season we see suicide rates rise, alcoholics fall off the wagon and marriages crumble. Everyone is trying to survive the holiday…but many are not doing it well.If we want to not only survive the holiday season, but to thrive in it, we need to consider ways we can make the holiday better for someone else.
If you have decided to set a boundary so thick with the fam this year that you aren’t planning to attend their holiday gathering, then don’t sit at home alone.
You never know what could happen if you do that—you might find yourself in the middle of a hundred homemade booby traps—made up of your own unhealthy coping mechs!
Instead, I challenge you to step outside of yourself this year. If you know what it feels like to be alone, afraid, to be the foreigner, to feel unwelcome, strange, unfortunate, unloved, unsettled or unworthy, then reach out to someone else who may be feeling something similar. Give them a holiday they’ll never forget.
Make a difference this Christmas in your own home. Host a party for foreign exchange students. Send a Christmas dinner invitation to a friend who has lost a spouse or child through death or divorce. Invite an elderly neighbor over for lunch. Offer to have a meal with the homeless.
Adding a seat or two or five at your holiday table will not cost you much, but will make the world of difference for someone who is hurting and feeling lonely. And trust me, you will be the one receiving far more than anyone. It is a joy to give.
“…we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” (Acts 20:35)
Reaching out and welcoming in also serves as a great example and opportunity for your kids to experience the true meaning and joy of Christmas: giving, not receiving. So take your family and serve at the local food pantry or shelter, write encouraging letters to those serving in our military or deliver some gifts to the sick kids in your local Children’s Hospital.
And if someone extends a welcome to you this year, don’t be shy—graciously accept it!
Let’s open our hearts and homes this holiday; let’s show others the truth that they matter and are loved; and let’s give the hope that things can get better. In turn, we ourselves might just come to understand and believe it too.
May God bless you as you reach out, welcome in and give to others in need!
Focus on today.
As survivors of abuse, we are easily tempted to look at our past in a way that can drown us in feelings of regret, resent and remorse—especially during the holidays or special milestones. Although I recognize the importance of looking back in order to move forward (I talk about this process a great deal in both of my books), I want to challenge you today to focus more on the present than on the past.
If our focus is always on what’s behind us, we could very well miss out on what is available to us today. And if we can’t see what is around us now, we will put our good relationships and potential opportunities this holiday season at great risk. We have to shift our vision to that which is right here, right now: the life, relationships, opportunities and hope which are sure to be in our immediate path.
So remove the mirrored goggles placed on you from your past and focus in on the present, while looking toward the future.
The pain of yesterday may never go away completely, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy tomorrow. And if tomorrow is going to be anything different than yesterday, we must make a decision today to shift our eyes off the tiny rearview mirror and pay closer attention to the path before us.
I believe there’s a reason your windshield is so much bigger than your rearview mirror—it’s because your future is so much bigger than your past!
Who has God placed in your life recently that gives you life and hope and encouragement? Don’t ignore them.
Who has He placed in your life recently that needs your life, hope and encouragement? Don’t neglect them.
What responsibilities do you have now? Who or what is counting on you to live and engage in the present? Where can you make a difference today?
May our prayer be this:“Lord, what does it look like to love and serve you…TODAY?”
Love. Commit. Endure. Give.
This holiday season is not about what you do, where you go, what you eat. It’s not about what you bought. It’s not even about who you were with. It’s about how you loved, how much you loved and how you gave away that love.
I realize that loving others might feel like the last thing you want to do right now: you may be feeling depressed, rejected, ignored… I get that. But today I hope you will consider the challenge to step outside of yourself and what you may be feeling because the outcome could make a bigger difference than you realize.
Today is a challenge toward love because Christmas is about celebrating the birth of the One who came as Love. The One who came to earth and sacrificed Himself, loving others as no one ever has or ever will.
Isaiah 61 says the reason He came was to preach the Good News, to heal the brokenhearted, to open prison doors, to give us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and a garment of praise instead of a heavy and hardening heart.
It is my utmost belief that Jesus wants to do that for you this holiday season. And as you let His love do a work in your heart, would you in turn open your heart to others?
How to begin?
Remember that love is a choice and we can choose to commit to love. Do this by defending, caring for, standing up for, believing in and supporting someone that God has called you to. Commitment is something that is becoming more and more foreign in our culture. But it’s something we are called to and we must heed that calling.
“She gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford…she gave her all”
This widow mentioned in Scripture gave a small amount compared to others around her, but she gave everything she had and Jesus noticed. She reminds me of those who have given beyond our culture’s call of duty: the one that tells us it’s fine to be selfish, to hoard, to withhold, and to give up on people, causes and commitments when times are hard. We need more courageous men and women like the woman in Mark 12 who would step beyond culture’s dangerously low expectation and instead commit to give and to love in big ways, even when it might hurt. Or even when we ourselves are already hurting.
The challenge more specifically for you and for me is to endure and to give.
First of all, endure the holiday stress, anxiety, grieving, loneliness and depression. I know it feels real awful for some of you right about now, but persevere because it will come to an end (even if it feels never-ending right now) and also because you are worth getting to the other side.
Secondly, endure hardship, pain, accusation, or whatever we may come up against in the call to commitment and love. I have no doubt that some of you reading this right now are contemplating calling it quits on something. I encourage you to push through worry, fear, doubt, gossip, discomfort, pain, etc, and persevere in the commitments that you are called to. Stick it out one more day. And then another.
No doubt it is those who chose to never give up on me that have made all the difference in my life. Now I want to give that gift to someone else. And I hope you will too.
So give love and commitment as gifts this Christmas.
Give even when you know you won’t get it back.
Give beyond what you think you can afford to give.
Give your all.
One day you will see the difference it made: not just in your life but in someone else’s too.
Sex trafficking is becoming a hot topic in the world today as more and more people are gaining awareness and understanding the impact of this evil reality around our world and in our own communities. Next month (December 2012), I pause from my “Break The Silence” tour, speaking out about sexual abuse at U.S. Colleges & Universities, and I will instead take my VOICE overseas to Cambodia to address the issue of child sex trafficking in the most direct way.
Cambodia is known to have one of the highest rates of child sex trafficking in the world.
I will arrive with a small film crew to tell the story of child sex trafficking in the nation of Cambodia. We will seek to shed light into a very dark part of our world with the purpose of rescue and restoration for these precious lives. I will spend 10 days there, going into the very brothels where human traffickers are operating, gathering stories and uncovering the evil that is being done to these little ones who are enslaved, being sold for sex.
Trafficking is nothing short of modern day slavery.
A child’s tragic journey into sex slavery often begins within a family struggling to survive — the average Cambodian lives on $360 USD a year — and some children are sold by their own parents. Other kids are lured by what they are lead to believe will be a legitimate job like waitressing, but once they are taken, they are held captive, beaten, starved and forced into servicing 10, 20, 50 men a day for all kinds of sex acts…many of these customers are wealthy American tourists.
Something must be done.
Luke 4:18 describes some of my mission: “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…”
I am asking you as my network of support to cover me in prayer as I travel to Cambodia in the month of December. Pray for safety and protection. Pray that the work I do will help reach, rescue and restore the young girls who are being enslaved there. Please pray for my family, as I will have a hard time leaving them for the duration of this mission. Pray for the film crew from Rescue Life (Dallas, TX); and pray especially for all of the little ones I will encounter in Cambodia. May God’s Kingdom break into this place, may hope be unveiled, freedom be made known, restoration be made possible, and may we all be changed.
Mother Teresa once said: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters that makes many ripples.”
Thank you, again and again, for playing part of the ripple effect of this great work. I cannot imagine doing any of it without you. Thank you for the sweet support over the years, for your prayers for this organization and all the lives it reaches; and thank you for joining me in spirit as I embark on this important mission in a couple of weeks. I plan to write again prior to my departure, and I invite you to follow me on Twitter and Facebook for updates throughout this mission to Cambodia.
My 3 year old son is sick. Sore throat. Fever. Runny nose. Tonsils swollen so big they look like two sumo wrestlers going at it. He struggles to breathe, sleep, talk, eat. I can barely get him to taste a popsicle…and this kid loves popsicles (click for video).
The other night during the 4th quarter of the NBA Finals game (or 11pmish for you non-sports people) he woke up, crying for me. I ran to him and his body was so hot it felt like it was covered in liquid magma. Fevering, sad and scared, through his tears he commanded, “Mama, get your blanky and lay wiff me in my bed.”
I did. I scratched his back, held him close, prayed over him, and whispered in his ear how sad I felt that he was hurting. I told him I was sorry he had to go through all this, but that I believed he would heal. He needed rest, so I asked him if he wanted to lay against me. He said yes; I propped up our pillows and snuggled him into my left armpit. His whimpering and crying eventually died down.
Soon it was silent. I thought for sure he was sleeping there on my chest and I determined not to move an inch until morning. Then I felt his head lift up a little. In a sweet, soft voice, he said to me: “I hear your heart.”
It reminded me of our relationship with the Lord. So often, in suffering, we cry and whine and scream to Him and others about our pain; we ask why? or when it will stop? or we simply get angry and demand change; but we think very little about the Lord’s heart in the mess. It isn’t until we quiet ourselves and our spirits and choose to humbly nestle into our Father’s armpit, that we truly hear from Him. Only then, can we hear His true heart. Only then do we begin to feel the truths that His heart beats toward us…truths like:
Cast all your anxiety on Me because I care for you. 1 Peter 5:7
I go before you and will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:8; Hebrews 13:5
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. I am gentle and humble in heart, and in Me you will find rest for your soul. Matthew 11:28-29
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for I will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
I am close to you and care about your broken heart. Psalm 34:18
I will help you. Hebrews 13:6
I will help you every step of the way. Proverbs 3:4-5
I am not distant; I hear your cries and count your tears. Psalm 22:24; 56:8: 116:1-2
One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes. Revelation 21:3-4
My thoughts toward you are countless as the sand on the seashore. Psalms 139:17-18
I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28-30
I will be your hiding place, your shelter, your refuge, your safety. Psalm 46:1; 27:4-I will be your comforter. Matthew 5:4
I want to comfort you and comfort others through you. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
I love you. John 3:16; 3:34
It is my desire to lavish my love on you. 1 John 3:1
I am your greatest encourager. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
I am for you. Romans 8:31
I knit you together in your mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13
I offer you more than your earthly father ever could. I am the perfect father. And I am so delighted you are my child. Matthew 7:11; 5:48
You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14
I am doing something new in you. 2 Corinthians 5:17
Nothing can ever separate us. Romans 8:37-39
My grace will carry you through this. It is sufficient. 2 Corinthians 12:9; Psalm 91:15
I will take care of you and supply all of your needs. Philipians 4:19
I want to give you the power and strength you need right now. I desire to see you soar! Isaiah 40:29-31
…and thats just a few thumps of His heartbeat for you and me. Dig into His Word today to hear more.
Please join me in praying healing for my son Jude and let’s find time to rest in the Lord’s armpit as much as we can.