Category Archives: Advent Joy

Advent Joy: Waging Peace

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Wherever you are, wage peace.”

So said Ann Voskamp (via one of her advent videos) to me this morning.

Talk about a divine interruption.

I had certain expectations when I woke up this morning as a busy day beckoned.

Then I ran smack into someone else who did not fulfill those expectations, barely five minutes into my day.

Expectations always strangle and smother joy and peace. Every single time. They are so dangerous.

My first reaction was to let some harsh words escape from my lips. Did this person not know all that I had to do today?!

 That is always my default mode. Jesus has been so patient with me over the years, gradually softening my heart so that my words are soft too.

The true miracle is that I have cooperated with Him! It has not been easy taming this wild, stony heart of mine. But His love, while tender, is also incredibly powerful and compelling. He comes to us with His fiery, purifying love in all its holy beauty and He is absolutely irresistible. 

My eyes immediately went to the manger scene on display in our home. There, the reminder of our greatest Gift confronted my angry heart and I knew He was beckoning me to keep my mouth shut and come and be with Him.

So I left the room, those awful accusatory words forever unsaid, and made a beeline for my Bible. I opened Jesus’ love letter to us, the love letter that endlessly and eternally proclaims the wonder of Who He is. (John 1:1).

And I read, “Now (in this moment, when your heart is in turmoil because self has taken center stage), may the Lord of Peace Himself (that would be Jesus) give you peace at all times and in every way (even in this). The Lord be with you all.” (That, after all, is the miracle of this season…Jesus is Emmanuel: God With Us)—(w Thessalonians 3:16).

Ann says in her video, “When I’ve lost a sense of peace, I need to go looking in the direction where I’ve left keeping company with the Person of Peace, Jesus.”

I had temporarily parted company with Jesus in my heart when I had forgotten the season that we are in; the season of Advent, as we remember the glorious and wondrous fact that He came to us!

My own selfishness had blinded me to the Gift of Him, who is now forever with us.

So I had to a choice to make. I could have listened to the enemy, who always tries to spur us on to wage war with ugly words and actions.  Or I could do it Jesus’ way.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

His way is ALWAYS best.

“You know how much I have to do today and all before noon,” I reminded Him. (as if He didn’t know). “Now I have all this other stuff to do and I will need Your help—and Your strength— to get it all done.”

I sensed His smile. That smile that comes from His perfect, loving heart because nothing is impossible.

With that benediction, He sent me into my day with a heart filled with peace rather than anxiety, anger, and frustration.

I walked into the kitchen, saw the babe in the manger, thanked Him for His grace and His mercy and His never-ending love.

Then, as the hours unfolded, I watched Him lay out my day so that I got every single thing done that I needed to do…with time to spare.

I had waged peace with the Prince of Peace leading the way…and joy reigned!

Wage peace today.


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Advent Joy: God’s Provision

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We had a wonderful speaker for our annual Mom To Mom Christmas party this year.

Her name is Judy and she is a former missionary to Africa; now widowed but full of the defiant joy of Jesus in the midst of heartache.

She told us the story of when she was a young mother and pastor’s wife with a baby and two toddlers. One night, she was dismayed to learn that her husband had agreed to preach at an Appalachian country church that Sunday. The very last thing she wanted to do was take a long car ride so close to Christmas.

Still she went, unable to resist her husband’s cheerful sense of adventure.

They arrived just in time for the service to begin. Someone immediately ushered her husband to the front of the church while she was left alone in the back of the church, holding her baby as her two toddlers clung to her legs. Finally, someone approached her.

“Are you the pastor’s wife?” this person asked.

“Yes I am,” she said gratefully, ready to sink into a pew and listen to her husband preach after dropping her kids off at the nursery.

“We need you to teach Sunday School.”

Judy could not believe her ears. After a long drive, she was tired and the last thing she wanted to do was teach Sunday school.

“Sure!” She replied, with a brightness she did not feel. “What are the ages?”

“Four to seventeen.”


She followed the church member back to the Sunday school room and was dismayed to see chaos: children were fighting, teenagers looked bored, and nobody appeared to be interested in being there.

After momentarily panicking, Jesus “whispered” to her, ” Tell them the story of My birth.”

Taking a deep breath, she opened her Bible and began to tell the most breathtaking, wondrous story of the Good News.

The entire room quieted as the extraordinary tale of God entering time as a baby unfolded.

By the time Sunday school had ended, Judy was completely exhausted. All she wanted to do was find her husband, take the kids to McDonald’s for a quick lunch, and begin the drive home so she could sleep.

It was not to be.

Her husband informed her that they had been invited to lunch by an elderly woman in the church who took great pride in inviting the preacher home for a meal at her home every Sunday. How could they refuse?

Judy wanted to cry. She was desperate for a nap, a fast lunch, and home in that order.

Filled with inner turmoil and a most ungrateful spirit, she climbed into the car with her husband and kids and they followed this elderly woman to her home.

It was a tar-paper shack.

Judy’s heart fell and she wanted to cry. But she plastered a smile on her face and tried to be gracious.

A lovely surprise awaited inside.

A roaring fire danced in the fireplace Her husband sat nearby in a wheelchair. The table was beautifully set for lunch. Their hostess had Christmas coloring books and crayons for Judy’s children to enjoy.

Once they were settled and Judy’s husband chatted with hers, the old woman motioned for Judy to follow her.

She took her to a cozy back bedroom. A lovely quilt was on the bed and in the corner of the room was a crib.

“You need to feed your child, then take a nap,” The woman said kindly. “Lunch will be ready in 45 minutes. Get some rest.”

With a smile, she left Judy and her baby alone.

With a grateful heart, Judy fed her baby, then sank down onto the comfy quilt and took a blissful nap.

As promised, her hostess woke Judy and she and her family ate one of the most delicious lunches they had ever tasted.

After a time of wonderful fellowship, they said their goodbyes and Judy was left to marvel at the sweet provision of her Savior.

“And to think I wanted to go to McDonald’s,” she thought. Jesus had seen her service and her sacrifice that day. He knew that her plans of a trip to a fast food place followed by no nap and a long drive home would have made an already stressful day much worse.

Instead, He had tenderly planned a delightful respite for her in the most unlikely of places.

He always provides. Perfectly. Wisely. Magnificently.

I thought about Judy’s story as I drove home.

That little tar paper shack had hidden an oasis of calm and beauty. Many, many years ago, a common stable in Bethlehem housed the greatest, most astonishing and extraordinary Treasure: The Christ Child.

God’s ultimate Provision for our sin-sick, helpless souls.

Because of…the heart of tender mercy and loving-kindness of our God, a Light from on high will dawn upon us and visit us, to shine upon and give light to to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to direct and guide our feet in a straight line into the way of peace. —(Luke 1:78-79).

Look around your life today. What provision might He have planted in unlikely places for you?

He is always at work.

Especially during this season of miracles.

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Advent Joy: O Holy Night

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I pulled up to the school one day last week to wait for my daughter to finish Nordic practice.

Jesus had painted a peaceful scene to close the day: the last rays of light were still visible in the sky above the snowy ground.

Just as I put the SUV in park, Josh Groban began to sing O Holy Night on the radio.

(I added ‘on the radio’ after proofreading this because it sounded like Josh Groban was in the car with me running errands and spontaneously burst into song. 🙂 On second thought, wouldn’t that have been absolutely lovely?! ).

I sat very still as chills ran all up and down my spine, listening to his achingly beautiful voice joyfully proclaim the Gospel message.

This may sound silly, but each time I hear Josh Groban sing, I imagine that this is how Jesus sounds when He sings.

Did you know that Jesus sings?

He sings over you!

The Lord God is in your midst, a mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over you with great gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing. —Zephaniah 3:17

His Voice is described elsewhere in Scripture as follows:

*like the sound of rushing waters (Ezekiel 43:2)

*so powerful that it can “strip forests bare” (Ps. 29:9)

*like thunder (Job 37:5)

*majestic (Job 37:5)

*flashes forth flames of fire (Ps. 29:7)

*mighty (Ps. 68:33)

*the roar of many waters (Rev. 1:15)

Just take a moment and imagine what THAT Voice sounds like singing over your life, right now, at this very point in time.

One day, when we are in Heaven, we will not only hear His magnificent Voice speaking (and singing!) to us; we will see His face!

The very Face of love and grace.

The most beautiful Face we will ever see in all His glorified splendor and magnificence.

But this is only possible because He first came to us in the face of a little baby born in a cold stable one star-filled night over 2000 years ago. That baby’s cry still echoes through time and eternity because in that one moment, our much-needed, life-saving rescue had begun.

Then she gave birth to her firstborn son and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough because there was no room for them at the lodging place. In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flocks. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were  terrified. But the angel of the Lord said, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today, a Savior was born for you in the city of David. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.” Suddenly, there was a multitude of heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to god in the highest heaven and peace on earth to the people He favors!” (Luke 2:7-14).

This is the magic of advent.

Jesus the Savior was born…for YOU.

Think about this glorious fact as you watch this video. Observe the depiction of Jesus’ birth set to Josh Groban’s voice…and think about the fact that this very One sings over your life today.

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Advent Joy: The Treasure Of His Word

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The word advent comes from the Latin word for “coming.”

Jesus is always coming to us. The problem becomes when we don’t have eyes to see Him.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am going to be recording ways that Jesus is showing Himself to me during this season of advent.

This morning, He came to me in a powerful way in His Word.

The first Scripture I saw was Jesus asking, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41).

That is such a beautiful question, isn’t it? Jesus asked it often of the people who came to Him seeking something. It reveals His open hand and open heart. His tenderness and the fact that He sees. He sees our need and He doesn’t ever turn us away. He always seeks to draw us in deeper and closer to His heart.

I came to Him feeling overwhelmed with fatigue and the weight of long-standing, unresolved issues.

I felt like I had absolutely no strength to face the day ahead so I asked Him to speak to me through His Word, to allow His strength to fill and overflow my weakness.

And He did.

When I questioned His ways, He reminded me that His way is perfect. ( 2 Samuel 22:31)

When I told Him I was tired of living in a wilderness where I can’t see a way out, He told me that He is my Rock, my Fortress in the midst of that very wilderness, and my Deliverer. (2 Samuel 22:2).

He told me that He delights in me and dearly and tenderly loves me (2 Samuel 22:20; Revelation 3:19).

Through Him, He expects me to conquer and be victorious. (Revelation 3:5).

When so much seems to depend on the actions of other people, He reminded me that He alone opens doors that no man can shut. (Revelation 3:8).

He encouraged me to “always pray and do not faint, lose heart, or give up.” (Luke 18:1).

He assured me that “what is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27).

He prompted me to remember that as one of His own, I am to walk by faith and not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7).

He guaranteed that those who mess with His own will answer to Him because they are tormenting the very ones who are the apple of His eye. (Zechariah 2:8; Luke 18:7-8).

He promised that He is working all things…even the seemingly little, inconsequential things) for my good. (Romans 8:28).

And above all, He assured me of this, a Scripture that has comforted me on SO many occasions: “I KNOW what I am doing! I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not to abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” (Jeremiah 29:11, The Message).

I left that time with Jesus revived, restored, refreshed and strengthened.

It was a fresh reminder that no matter what struggles and trials exist in my life on this day, He has already given me e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g I need: He has given me Himself…the endless, extravagant, beautiful Gift that never stops giving, either now or into eternity:

In the beginning (before all time) was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself…For out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received…one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift heaped upon gift. —(John 1: 1, 16)

I am rich beyond measure.

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Advent Joy

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Walking down the hall of a cardiac ICU will change a heart.

I tried not to look at the other patients as we walked toward my brother-in-law’s room, but I couldn’t help it. Every single one of them looked so small lying on their hospital beds, hooked up to so many humming and beeping machines. The sun streamed through the windows behind them, casting an ironic golden glow over a room filled with the sadness of a life interrupted in the worst possible way.

I greeted my brother-in-law, chatted for a few minutes, told him how good he looked, then made my escape. This time I didn’t look at anyone. I walked straight ahead, my mind filled with memories of another ICU cardiac unit that I found myself in eleven years ago on that very day. That time, my father was in one of those cold and sterile rooms and all we could do was watch helplessly as his damaged heart gradually stopped beating until at last it was still and he was ushered into eternity.

As soon as the ICU doors closed behind me, I felt like I could breathe again. I told my sister-in-law that I wouldn’t be going back in there. My head was pounding and all I wanted was out. Out of the hushed halls, the sounds of muffled sobs, the somber atmosphere. I wanted to be out in the world, amongst the happy hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. I wanted the bright, twinkling lights, the joyful music, and the fresh, pine-scented air.

After our nephews had arrived to be with their mother and we were able to leave, I took my husband’s hand and practically ran out of that place. I took a deep breath of the cold December afternoon and felt like I had been given a new, fresh start. A major reality check that is still being felt in my life to this day.

This life is short, fleeting, precious.

And it is the season of Advent; the time when we willingly choose to carve out an oasis of quiet in the midst of the busyness of the season to remember.

To remember the fact that God Himself broke into this world of sadness and death and sin as a tiny baby over two thousand years ago to bring life and hope and healing and love to this war-scarred planet.

I’m sad to say that many Christmas seasons have passed without me taking the time to celebrate these precious days of Advent.

Not this year. Not with this fresh reminder of how life can change in an instant, how thin the veil between time and eternity truly is.

So, with the help of Ann Voskamp’s new advent book, The Greatest Gift, I have made time to celebrate every day. I have realized afresh and anew the sheer miracle of grace that this season so beautifully gives to us.

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He came to us. He came to rescue us from our sin-stained selves, to set us free, to heal us and make us whole. 

HE alone is our Greatest Gift. He is all we need! 

And I get to use this one life of mine to give my love back to Him…one long, continual, (sometimes messy and definitely imperfect)  THANK YOU to the One who loved me enough to give His life for me!

“…no good thing does He withhold.”—Psalm 84:11

And the good things in life are not health but holiness,
not the riches of this world but relationship with God,
not our plans but His Presence—
and He withholds no good thing from us
because life’s good things aren’t ever
—(Ann Voskamp)

Over the next few days of Advent, I am going to record snapshots of the gifts—and many graces— that He is giving me during this precious time. As I continue to count my 1000 Gifts during this season, it is taking me deeper into His love, waking me afresh to the stunning and startling beauty He places all around me, and filling my heart with the absolute certainty that He alone is the only Gift I will ever need.

Ever so slowly, my heart is being wooed away from the tinny treasures of this temporal world  by His relentless, fiery, consuming, intense, and passionate love.

Joy to the world; the Lord has come!

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