Trek to the Manger (DQ3)

Trek to the Manger Ch 3Today’s chapter has two themes, really.

The imbalance of our stuff, and our tendency to keep the curtains closed. 

I’ve learned about the first theme first-hand over the past month, having downsized from 2,000 square feet to 600. There is an insane amount of stuff from my previous house, my previous life, that just isn’t going to fit in my space anymore! Not if I want to breathe air, anyways.

This chapter – this day – is about acknowledging the need for some fluidity when it comes to our possessions. Not everything we own has equal weight – equal value. And just as good flows into our lives, good must flow out. Otherwise we’re no better than the Dead Sea, choking on our own salt.

At church last Sunday, we were asked to bring our most valuable (inanimate) possession to the altar and leave it there! Until the end of the service, that is. But it was sobering, even for those twenty minutes or so, to realize that our stuff is just stuff.

So, I’ve got to ask… What “stuff” of yours would make it into the deserted island scenario? Are there three things that would bring you comfort or hope if you were all alone? This reminds me of a very recent experience with wildfires in Arizona. You can read about it here, if you have time.

As far as curtains go, I get that they have a purpose. In Arizona, they help to keep our homes cool in the heat of the day. That, and they make it possible for us to watch movies before dark without the interference of the sun’s glare on the screen. They’re great for privacy, too. Very functional, curtains.

But they also keep out the light.

Comfort, leisure activities and private spaces are great, but I have a feeling that God is more interested in turning up the heat! Getting us up off of our couches! Opening our homes and hearts to our neighbors!

Letting the Light pour in!

I challenge you to write in the margins of your Trek to the Manger book over the next few weeks, taking note of those people and activities and things that lighten your load and shine light in your life. Whenever you want to share one of these moments or people with us – right here – use the Reply option (best to click on the title, above, then scroll down and look for the Reply section).

By the way – you can also Reply to the comments of others, building community online as we take this devotional journey together!

Trek to the Manger (DQ2)

Trek to the Manger Ch 2You wouldn’t leave home with laces dangling from your kicks, would you? But how many times have you hit the ground running without having tied your spiritual laces in prayer?

Tying your shoes is a matter of practicality. If a shoe is made to be tied, it won’t function properly without tightening the laces.

Tying your shoes is also a matter of safety; the referee will even blow his whistle and stop the game for a soccer cleat in need of a good, strong double-knot.

It’s the same with prayer! Prayer is practical, because our design as human beings requires intentionality to insure that life functions as it should. Prayer is also a safety feature, keeping us from the avoidable hazards created by rushing into life without concern for how prepared we actually are (or aren’t).

Two questions for today, then.

If prayer is the act of tying your spiritual shoes, how might you add this important step to your daily routine during Advent? (Keep in mind that shoe-tying isn’t a time-intensive investment, but it is a critical step in preparing for the day.)

What prayer(s) are particularly special to you? Are there words that you use to draw close to God that you might be willing to share with us? 

To reply, make sure you have opened the actual post for today. To do this, click on the post title (above), then scroll down to the area below the post. There will be a delay the first time you post, so don’t worry if you don’t see it right away!

Trek to the Manger (DQ1)

Trek to the Manger Ch. 1 2017You didn’t sign up for a season of CrossFit, but here we are – at the foot of the Cross and fit-to-be-tied.

For my friends who are committed to taking a Trek to the Manger this Advent season, my first question for you is this:

What challenges do you anticipate this season will bring? 

I’m going to be honest, and I hope you will be, too. The past couple of months have been… rough. As much as I want to celebrate this Christmas, I’m mourning a little bit, too. (Wait. I told you I’d be honest. There’s a whole lot of mourning going on!)

I miss my house.

I miss my friends.

I miss my church family.

I miss the “me” I used to be.

And at the end of the day, it’s going to be a challenge for me to celebrate the Light because all I really want to do is wallow in my loss. Does this make sense? Can I get an Amen? Anyone else there with me?

How about you? What’s YOUR biggest challenge going to be as we move into this holiday season?

Post your comments and thoughts below (and remember – if it’s your first time posting at Pink Shoes Ministries, there will be a delay before your post is approved).

 

Trek Community Call-Out

Our ADVENT-ure begins on Sunday, and already there are women (and brave men!) joining up to take a Trek to the Manger… will you come along?

Our Trek community includes, so far, participants from Canada, Washington state, Virginia, Arizona, Oregon…

Check out the details here and invite a friend to tag along – the more, the merrier, as they say!

One day and counting…

Trek to the Manger Begins Nov. 26th

Ready for an ADVENT-ure?!

Check out the 2017 Trek to the Manger details here!

Join Up! Take two minutes to complete the registration form.

Gear Up! Get your copy of Trek to the Manger on Amazon.com and download your 2017 reading schedule from the Trek page, right here at Pink Shoes Ministries.

Team Up! Traveling is more fun with a friend, so team up with your favorite girls for an advent season like no other! Download your FREE copy of the small group discussion questions (on the Trek page), or weigh in on the daily question right here, from November 26th through Christmas Eve.

Look Up! As you travel through the holiday season, let us help you keep your focus. Registered participants who engage in the online discussion will be eligible to win nifty prizes (see Trek page for details)!

To Be Continued

On this Reformation Sunday we are reminded by the apostle Paul that our salvation is a gift from God. Romans 3:24-25 say that we are made right with God when we believe that Jesus sacrificed his life for our salvation. If we connect the dots in these two verses, we can see that we are justified by faith; there is nothing we can do in order to acquire this gift of salvation other than, simply, to have faith.

Faith in God’s ability to give this gift.

Faith in the reality of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

Faith in the power of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to bring us into right relationship with God.

Faith in God’s ability and desire to affect real change in the messy lives of real people, like you and me.

Now, let’s be clear: Our faith doesn’t make it so – God’s gift of grace is real whether I choose to believe it’s real or not. Our faith simply receives this gift with open arms.

The message we find in Romans 3:28 reveals the fact that humans throughout time have had great difficulty accepting this gift of God on faith alone; there has to be a catch! Right? The skeptic would say that gifts always come with strings attached. The Catholic church in Martin Luther’s day, much like the Pharisees Jesus encountered, preached the necessity of doing the right things and following all the rules in order to be right with God. In order to somehow “deserve” or “earn” salvation. Yet Paul proclaims “that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.”

And Martin Luther picked up where Paul left off, carrying this word and this truth into his own time; through the doors of the churches where he worshiped and into the streets of the places he called home. Martin Luther knew that the work of Jesus’ first followers was only the beginning; this work was To Be Continued – and that’s just what Luther did.

And that’s just what Jesus meant when He “said to the Jews who had believed in him: If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples” (John 8:31). To continue assumes the start of something; and that something for Jesus’ original disciples was a relationship with Him. Jesus’ first followers spent days and months along dusty roads, listening to Him talk, watching Him care for others, learning about God firsthand from the Master. We may not have Jesus’ physical presence, but we listen to Him speak through Scripture, which is amplified by His Spirit’s confirming presence in our hearts. When Jesus tells us, then, to continue in His word, it is clear that He didn’t mean “follow all the rules” in some legalistic way – that was never the spirit of His teaching.

Likewise, to continue in Jesus’ word does not mean resting on the laurels of our salvation, getting fat and happy on His good graces. To continue in Jesus’ word does not mean hanging up a shingle or putting down a stake, as if to say “here is where God acted – let’s set up camp forever,” as if the story has ended and all that’s left is for it to be retold.

Martin Luther and his fellow reformers did what they did as a continuation of Jesus’ word. We celebrate their efforts today! The problem, though, is that many who followed the reformers failed to take up the standard and march on. Instead of raising the rallying cry “To Be Continued!” we label ourselves “Lutheran.” We institutionalize the words of the reformers, and we repeat them again and again, as if the story has ended and all that’s left is for it to be retold, making the church of today look strikingly similar to the unmovable institution that Luther leveraged his life to reform.

But, if we listen to Jesus, and if we consider what the reformers did to continue in Jesus’ word, we can’t help but see our calling as a continuation of the Gospel, as a continuation of the Reformation, as a work of the Holy Spirit To Be Continued in our lives on this day. That’s why we wear red, which represents the Spirit who is moving through the church like wildfire, creating heat and burning off the selfish and complacent chaff.

What begins for each of us as pure gift – grace and salvation and forgiveness in Christ – is To Be Continued as we seek to be true to His word in this church where we worship, and on the streets of the places we call home.

Believing is only the beginning! The life of Christ is To Be Continued in us.

 

Morningly (re-posted for National Coffee Day)

I am not a morning person. Really not a morning person. I am a night owl to the bone. Marrow.

Unfortunately for me, life hasn’t been the most accommodating to my body-clock. About the time my REM cycle hits deep-and-satisfying, my alarm clock begins to chirp and the demands of motherhood, employment, and academia trump my biological rhythm once again.

So, I sit here tonight (or should I say today? It’s 1:00 am, after all), enjoying the irony of a newly-discovered word. I spotted it on a billboard last week, en route to the Atlanta airport, and it made me giggle. Plastered beside the image of an enormous donut were these terrific words:

Made Fresh Morningly

Morningly? Is that even a legitimate word? I admit to jumping through some mental hoops while searching for context and verification. The light came on when I realized that day becomes daily… I suppose morning could present itself as morningly by the same token? Being a night person, my very next thought was – of course – whether the same thing could be done with evening. Eveningly. Sounds weird. But night does become nightly, so there you go.

And if donuts can be Made Fresh Morningly, how much more wonderful it is to realize that God’s mercies are new morningly, as well (even though they come far too early for a late-night-thinker like me). Great is His faithfulness!

As crazy as it sounds, this word makes me smile at mornings, redeeming some of the unpleasant memories of dreams interrupted before the sun begins to shine (which, by the way, is completely unfair – if I have to wake up at dark-o-thirty, Mr. Sun, so should you). Unlike the word morning, which in my experience is never a good thing, morningly is positive. Upbeat. Full of promise. Akin to words like merrily and joyfully. Something to look forward to.

Eveningly, my energy level will continue to spike and I will fight hard for each and every wink, because that, my friends, is just how I roll.

But as long as my coffee is Made Fresh Morningly (and strongly), and as long I am met with the grace of a forgiving Father at the start of each new day, I simply can’t complain. (I can hit the snooze button, though.)

Great is Your faithfulness, God!

Power Jam!

It’s not only the name of the dark ale I’m sipping as I sit at the local pub on this “National Drink a Beer Day,” waiting for my growler to be filled. As the emotional roller coaster of this past week screeches to a halt, “Power Jam” seems like an apt assessment of what God has done in spite of me over these twelve short years.

POWER JAM! (what a juicy refrain!)

“Power” fits, because there is nothing our God cannot do, and He has delivered the goods – and the Good News – every single day I have awakened in this place. There is “Power in the Blood,” and as I’ve prayed for “More Love, More Power” He has faithfully infused my life with as much as I can handle – thanks be to God!

And it’s “Jam” because… dang! God’s gifts are sweet! No matter the jams we may get ourselves into, there’s no sticky mess He cannot redeem.

There is no sticky mess that He cannot redeem.

No sticky messes that can’t be redeemed!

That’s my jam! 

So I’ll sing it with gusto, frothy mug-in-hand: Our God is amazing! He is my Power Jam!

 

 

 

Evacuation Revelation

IMG_2237You’ve probably played this game before – the icebreaker that poses the scenario: Your house is on fire, and you can take only five things with you. What do you choose?

Designed to get at what you value most, this conversation-starter poses a theoretical question that can result in some pretty interesting insights about people and their stuff. You haven’t truly played the game, however, until there’s ash falling like snow in your yard and a phone call confirms you are next in the queue for mandatory evacuation.

We had been breathing smoke for days as the hills behind our home were consumed by fire. A shift of the wind overnight brought the flames close enough to warrant the decision to put our neighborhood on pre-evacuation notice. I listened to the voice on the automated call tell me that we weren’t in immediate danger, but we should be ready to go, just in case.

Ready to go? I looked around my 2,000 square foot home and at the three cars in the driveway, knowing that I had an indeterminate amount of time to decide which of our possessions should be staged in the “go” pile, and of those deserving items, which would actually fit in the cars. Home alone, I nervously started the room-by-room trek through all of my family’s worldly possessions, evaluating their importance and considering their size. As items were deemed worthy, they were moved to the living room where they could be loaded up quickly when evacuation orders came.

Here’s where the revelation comes in. A couple of them, actually.

My first attempt to identify worthy items was literally all about me. What do I need? Like? Love? What could I not live without? What will I regret not having if I leave it behind? It wasn’t until I stepped into my son’s bedroom that I was hit with conviction about answering these questions for all of my absent family members, which meant I had to retrace my steps with an entirely different set of questions in mind.

Most of what ended up being chosen didn’t surprise me: Financial paperwork, family documents, clothing for a couple of days. Computers made the cut, as did several tubs of pre-digital family photos and my son’s guitars. What did surprise me was that, after checking my list twice, all of these necessities fit easily into three modest cars. There was room to spare! So much so, that I made another pass through the house actually looking for more things to rescue, but I just couldn’t find much more to add.

Seeing all of our items-worth-saving in a pile on the floor made me realize how little there actually is in this world that we cannot live without. I took pictures of several large paintings that wouldn’t fit in the cars, and I photographed the wall in my living room that is covered in crosses, each given to me by special family and friends.

Then I sat, taking mental stock of the many, many possessions I had no need to save. For insurance purposes, I did one more lap around the house, videotaping what would be left behind before my son came home and helped me load up the cars.

Evacuation orders never came, thanks to more than 1,000 firefighters working day and night to control the blaze. Even so, I don’t regret being forced into the living of this scenario, which has gracefully exposed some selfish tendencies and revealed that what we really need in order to thrive isn’t more stuff, but the carefully chosen, thoughtfully cultivated right stuff.

 

 

A Different Path through Advent

Advent begins on Sunday, November 27th, unleashing a “tradition” of holiday chaos in households across America. Will you join in? Or will you join me in taking a different path through the season of Advent this year?

Trek to the Manger is a daily devotional guide for busy women during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each chapter is bite-sized, giving women who are hungry for meaning and purpose plenty of food-for-thought without adding too much weight to your already jam-packed holiday schedule.

Check it out here! You’ll find a downloadable reading schedule, as well as a Small Group Discussion Guide to use with friends – near and far – who Trek with you.

So… invite a few friends, visit Amazon for your books, and gear up for a journey to the manger that just might birth something new in you!