Tag Archives: Christ

THE BEST CHRISTMAS GIFT

LIGHT FROM THE LORD

I was gazing out the window noticing the winter weather as I was writing notes on Christmas cards. The wintry day caught my attention with the bareness of the trees and lack of sunlight. It was noticeably monotone and drab in my back yard where it is usually vibrant with life and color.

I noticed the stark contrast between the drabness outside and the joy and brightness in my soul. As I pondered that distinct difference, words began flooding into my spirit. The thoughts of the wintry day reminded me of what life would be like without Christ.

Apart from Christ, we would be destined for a wintry life.

As we celebrate Christ’s birth this week, let us all remember why He was born. He came to give new life.

His love is a gift that breaks into the dark places of the soul and brings forth light. He strengthens us when we’re weak. He fills us with love when we’re loveless. He soothes our sorrows when we’re mourning. He heals the heart when it’s broken. He restores the broken things and makes beauty out of our mistakes.

He is the redeemer of every painful trial we’ll ever face.

God brought forth Christ the Messiah for all people, so that we could live abundantly in hope and peace no matter how dark it becomes in the world. His light overcomes all darkness. The love of Christ is the best Christmas gift we’ll ever receive.

Lord Jesus,

Let us be keenly aware of Your love and light this Christmas. Let us rejoice over the gifts You have given us through a loving relationship with You. Amen.

 “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!” —Ephesians 5:8

DANCING IN THE RAIN

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The rain would start pouring down hard and my children would be energetically bouncing with joy.  Their little voices would beg me to let them go outside. “Mommy, if there’s no thunder, can we go out in the rain?”

I would stand at the door and watch them jump around and dance in the rain. It was full living at its best as they splashed in the puddles. Sometimes they would dance, or they would make a tent of umbrellas on the driveway. Sometimes they would simply stand in the rain on the edge of the street feeling the rush of water flowing between their toes.

The rain didn’t stop them from simply enjoying the day.

Children hold the key to a happy life. They are innocent in their thinking, and they know how to enjoy life to the fullest instinctively. A downpour of rain doesn’t hinder a child’s ability to embrace the moment and live fully.

This is how our Father in heaven wants us to live out our lives. When He created us He never intended for us to grudgingly endure life. His original idea was for us to see Him in the midst of the rain showers and enjoy life to the fullest.

God knew life wouldn’t be perfect or easy. I believe His greatest desire is for us to rely on Him in the midst of the rainy days. When we’re dependent upon Him, He continually pours out His grace and love onto our lives in the most unimaginable ways.

Years ago while praying, I heard words in my spirit that changed my perspective.

If you stay on the path with Me, you will not be disappointed.” God whispered those life-giving words to my heart.

At first I was thinking, “How can that be possible?” But I soon understood what the Lord was trying to get me to understand. He wanted me to know that if I followed Him and stayed close to His heart, He would turn my mourning into dancing instantaneously in the midst of disappointing circumstances.

His words have proved to be true in my life. I can honestly say—because I have been so wrapped up in God’s love—that disappointment has not lingered in my heart, nor has anything been able to rob me of my joy during the latter years of my life. Not any setback or loss or shattered dream can take away the joy that comes from Christ. His joy is eternal. When we have Him—we have everything.

Life is full of difficulties and challenges for everyone. No matter how much a person tries to put on a facade, nobody’s life is perfect. No human is immune to pain. Pain is not our enemy when Jesus is the center of our lives. His love overshadows everything and we can fellowship in His sufferings (Philippians 3:10).

My grandmother Mimi lived fully alive until she passed away at ninety-five years old. She had every reason to be bitter and unhappy. Her six-year-old brother died in an accident when she was a young girl and her father died when she was a young teen, leaving her in a state of poverty with a mother who wasn’t very affectionate.  Yet she danced in the rain.

My friend and mentor Bonnie had a gift for expressing what it means to live fully. She said, “With Christ, there are no disappointments. The challenges in life are HIS-appointments.” Bonnie passed away in 2008. Her faith in Christ lives on in my heart.

Leaning on our own strength leads to more disappointment. It’s when we lean on Jesus that we see His glory in our lives.

Life is undeniably hard. Every day we have a choice. We can either focus on the troubles in our lives or look toward Christ and live in His presence and glory. Why not choose the latter and see God’s Glory in your life? Choose joy. Choose life.

When the rain pours down, choose to turn toward Jesus and dance!

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness.” — Psalm 30:11 (NAS Bible)

“Children of Zion, celebrate! Be glad in your God. He’s giving you a teacher to train you how to live right—Teaching, like rain out of heaven, showers of words to refresh and nourish your soul, just as He used to do.”

Joel 2:23 (The Message)

This article has been revised from a piece originally written in March, 2008.

The photo was downloaded at istockphoto.com.

CHOOSING TO WALK IN THE LIGHT

Walking in the Light

With a forlorn tone in my voice, I told my mother, “Nobody understands.” I was venting to my mom about how hard things were in my life at the time. My mom in her wise and loving way, said, “You’re right, nobody does understand, and they never will. Jesus understands though. And He is the only One who will ever be able to fully understand what you’re feeling and what you’re going through.”

It was years ago that my mom’s words helped to jolt me out of my big pity party. It was a defining moment for me that helped to change the course of my thinking. Mama’s words were etched in my heart permanently as a reminder of how Jesus is the only One who can satisfy the longings of the human soul.

During the darkest season of my life, seventeen years ago, I made a choice to walk away from the things and thoughts that were keeping me from living and walking in the light.

Feeling sorry for myself was a snare in my life that was robbing me of the abundance I was longing for. Self-pity is such a destructive, life-stealing, ugly force that steals beautiful moments of abundant living from anybody who falls prey to it.

As we read in John 16: 33, Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

When we embrace the fact that Jesus can help us overcome anything and make a conscious decision to focus on His love and not on our difficult situations, then amazingly our problems begin getting solved in the most supernatural ways. That’s exactly what happened in my life.

I was in a pit in 1997, and it was a living hell for me. After my family and my special friend Bonnie encouraged me to keep seeking the Lord, I took a hundred and eighty degree turn from my self-destructive thought patterns and chose to pray boldly for help from God. On the days I could barely get out of bed, I would turn on my Larnelle Harris C.D. and listen to his song, “I Choose Joy” over and over and over and over until joy came bursting out of my soul.

Once I began taking every thought captive and meditating on the truths of the Bible, then my spirit felt renewed, I began living in peace, and miracles began coming forth.

Transformation begins with us turning away from negativity and taking a step toward Christ. God doesn’t just snatch us out of the darkness. He says if we seek Him with all our hearts, then we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).

Are you feeling the darkness closing in on you? If so, I pray that you will begin today to seek God with every fiber of your being. As you are steadfast in your pursuit of Christ, the light will overcome the darkness in your life.

Be encouraged. Jesus has overcome the world!

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:5-7 (ESV)

 

A NEW SONG

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It was during the early morning hours. I felt weak and restless as I was facing a challenge in my life that seemed impossible to overcome.

With tears rolling down my cheeks, I bowed down at the feet of the Father. I cried out for strength. I prayed, “Father, the obstacles on the path laid out for me feel too big.” His warm embrace enveloped my heart as His love washed over me. His Spirit soothed my soul and the sweetness of His presence encircled every ounce of my being. His words flooded into my spirit.

 “Child, nothing is too big for Me. I’ll never ask you to do more than I created you for. Rest in Me. Rest in My love, rest in knowing there is nothing I’ll ask of you that will ever be too big. My grace is sufficient for you. In your weakness, My strength is made perfect. Arise my child. Let me put a new song in your heart. Let My love lift you up and carry you.”

As His loving words permeated my heart, my soul was restored in an instant. He breathed new life into my spirit and strengthened me. Joy replaced the tears. Peace covered me and made me ready to begin a new day with a new song in my heart—a song of joy for celebrating the love I had found in my Father’s arms.

With the love of God, and His strength—life is made beautiful. He carries those who completely depend on Him.

Lord, 

I lift up each one reading this prayer. Surround her with Your peace and give her a new song in her heart today—a song of joy and a song of hope for all the great things You have in store. I pray in Your name, Christ. Amen.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

— Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

 “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God”

— Psalm 40:3 (NIV)

 This post has been revised and edited from a piece I wrote in 2009.

THE PURPOSE OF PAIN

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On a day of volunteering at a ministry that provides food to people in need, I was able to see clearly how God uses pain in our lives. As I stood next to a table that had a variety of delicious foods, I picked up a pie and handed it to a sweet, young mom. Tears came streaming down her face as she saw the abundance of food we were giving her family. The pie seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, or to put it in better words: It was the pie that touched the mother’s heart. She was obviously deeply touched by the generosity of God through this ministry.

Through her tears, she began telling me that her small children had been without enough food to fill their tummies the previous week. While she was sharing her heart, I was overcome with weepy emotionsWith tears rolling down my cheeks, I embraced her tightly. Her story was taking my mind back to the time when I was experiencing a difficult circumstance similar to hers.

As I remembered my pain, I told her, “It will get better with God’s help; I promise.”

Memories flooded my mind as I hugged her. I thought about the years my husband’s home-based business was struggling and he delivered pizza for less than $7.00 an hour while I was home-schooling our children and working part-time. As I listened to her painful story, I remembered the day when our refrigerator was almost empty and my daughter asked me, “Are we going to starve, Mommy?”

Join me over at DaySpring’s (in)courage site to read the rest of the story. I’m super excited to be a guest contributor to one of the best women’s ministry websites online.

JESUS MAKES BEAUTIFUL THINGS

Beauty for Ashes - Isaiah 61

As I shut off my cell phone, I burst into a deep heartfelt cry. I’d just listened to someone spill their heart about a really tragic circumstance. I could feel the pain of another person’s heart entering into mine. It hurt me deeply to watch a loved one go through such an excruciatingly painful thing that seemed more like a nightmare than reality.

After I dried my tears, my mind filled with thoughts and questions. How can this be redeemed? How can anything good come out of this tragedy?

Within moments, the questions left my mind and I felt the warmth of Christ’s love wash over me. In my spirit, I could hear Him whispering, “I can make beauty out of anything.”

As the day went on, I felt God’s presence and peace so intensely, and I remembered the song, Beautiful Things, recorded by Gungor. I rushed to my computer and pulled up the video online. As I listened to the words, I began to weep again. This time it was different though. My tears were not filled with distress like earlier in the day. The tears were an expression of joy as I meditated on the fact that Jesus is the Beauty-maker.

If He could take a broken, messed up life like mine and turn it into a beautiful story of love, He can surely take my loved one’s or anyone’s life and turn the ugliness into something beautiful.

My life is proof that Jesus creates beauty out of messes. He healed my broken, painful marriage and turned my seeds of hatred into mountains of love. He turned my depression into unspeakable joy. He breathed life into my broken spirit and made me new.

Because of the way Christ has redeemed my past, I choose to have child-like faith for every person’s life—not just my own. No matter how big the mountain is in a person’s life, it’s not too big for Jesus. He is the healer of broken hearts and the mender of all things.

With my redeemed life, I’ve made it one of my life’s purposes to spread encouragement everywhere I go and to pray without ceasing for those who haven’t yet seen Christ’s beauty revealed in their lives.

For those experiencing anguish, you can be assured that Christ will replace the ashes of your past with a crown of beauty and give you a joyous blessing instead of despair. The Spirit of God holds a ray of light so intense that it will penetrate the darkest places of your soul and will fill you with an indescribable peace as you trust Christ to make beautiful things out of your pain.

 “To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.” — Isaiah 61:3 (NLT)

REMAINING CLOSE TO CHRIST FOR STRENGTH IN MARRIAGE

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Michael looks into my eyes and takes my breath away. Twenty-nine years after we said our vows in front of God and our loved ones, our love is stronger than ever.

During the hard years when the children were young and the stress seemed insurmountable, there were times when I actually felt nothing toward the man I had vowed to love forever. The misunderstandings and the hurts had taken their toll on my heart and it all seemed impossible to repair.

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Now I know that with Christ all things are possible (Luke 1:37). Love grows out of hearts that are knitted closely with God. His love never fails.

I understand why God asks that we pledge our love to each other for the rest of our earthly lives because it takes a lifetime to learn how to love unconditionally and fearlessly.

After nearly three decades, our love is deeper than I could have ever imagined; it is a true miracle. As we remain close to Christ, His love is the strength of our marriage.

“Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” — Ephesians 4:15 (NLT)

I’m linking up for Five Minute Friday where Lisa Jo Baker and other awesome people write for five minutes flat with no self critiquing or no striving for perfection. This week’s prompt is: “Close.” It took me more than five minutes to write this post today.

The photos were taken the day we celebrated twenty-five years of marriage by renewing our wedding vows.

Five Minute Friday

INEXPRESSIBLY GRATEFUL

Inexpressible Gift

Although there are no human words to express my gratitude for what Christ has done for me, my heart’s desire is to capture the essence of my gratefulness in my prayers and letters to Him. I wrote this letter to Jesus in 2009 as my pledge of love to Him and my commitment to trust Him in every area of my life.

Dear Jesus,

I love You with all of my heart and soul. I love You more than the very breath You give me. Every step I take—I take for You. You excite me! You make my heart sing and dance. You make me happy. You make me want to leap and jump and skip. You make me feel like a little girl. You make me want to wake up every day and look for You.

I feel You with me. I know You’re beside me. I feel Your angels everywhere I go. There’s this amazing covering You have placed over me. Sometimes I feel Your Presence so strongly that I almost think I can touch You. I am grateful.

I am amazed at your love for me. You relentlessly follow me and show me Your Beauty. The joy you have placed in my heart is so overpowering that I can’t contain it at times.

I am overwhelmed by your love. I need You, my Lord, more than anything else and I praise and honor You for the ways You chase me with Your love. In every area I have been deprived in, You have given me an abundance of blessing.

Lord, I don’t want to ever doubt You again. Forgive me for taking so many years to get to this place of trust. I am thankful that I have fully accepted the gift of You and Your love. Help me to continually stay in this place of trust.

I am Yours always…no one can ever take me away from You. Your love permeates my heart. Your love lifts me high. Your love makes my life beautiful. How can I repay You for Your love for me?

Yours forever and always,
Amy

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” — 2 Corinthians 9:15 (ESV)

I’m linking up for Five Minute Friday where Lisa Jo Baker and other awesome people write for five minutes flat with no self critiquing or no striving for perfection. This week’s prompt is: “Grateful.”

 Five Minute Friday

 

MAKING A DIFFERENCE ONE SMALL ACT AT A TIME

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I wept and wept when a group of my Bible study friends joined together in 2005 to be the hands and feet of Jesus and helped me during our family’s crisis. To the ladies who stepped in to help us, it seemed like a simple act of kindness. But in reality their joining together to help, provided food and gift cards that fed our family for at least eight months while we struggled through a season of low income jobs. It was life-changing for me. Not only did their act of love provide for us in our need, but it instilled in me a desire to do the same thing for others for the rest of my life on this earth.

I wrote the Prayers of a Mother’s Heart eBook with the goal of making a difference in the world. Several weeks ago, during a special promotion of my eBook, I wrote a post sharing that I planned to purchase bunk beds with the proceeds from the promotion. I have great news! With the royalties from the April promotion and with the previous months’ royalties, I was able to donate money to Hands of Love to enable them to purchase beds for two children. Did you hear that? My books’ royalties provided beds for children who would otherwise be without one. I’m shouting praises to Jesus!

Bunk Beds for Children

I don’t think we really realize how much our acts of love impact others eternally. We may wonder, “Is buying a bed for a child really making that big of a difference?” To a child who has been literally living on the streets, never knowing what it’s like to have a comfortable place to sleep, a bed is life-changing. He will remember the day he received his new bed for the rest of his life in the same way I will remember August 24, 2005—the day my friends came to my rescue.

Hands of Love

It thrills my heart when I meet others who are passionate about making a difference. I am excited that I recently learned about Kim Belcheff’s site—a blog dedicated to supporting charities. I am honored to have an interview posted at Heart of a Philanthropist.

My prayer for all followers of Christ is that we would band together to reach out to the homeless and loveless in their great need. While we, the Body of Christ, function as His hands and feet, we will see the world begin to change.

I refuse to stand by while the world falls deeper into darkness, thinking, “I don’t have enough money to make a difference.” We can overcome the darkness as we realize our small acts of love actually do make a significant and real difference.

“Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.”

— James 1: 27 (The Message)

 

BECAUSE HE LIVES WE, CAN FACE TOMORROW

Because He Lives!!

I woke up yesterday morning thinking of the lyrics to an old hymn written by Bill Gaither. The words are powerful and sum up the message of the gospel beautifully. Because Christ lives, we can rest in His presence and peace. We can face adversity with strength because we know we have our Jesus to carry us.

I pray that as you read these lyrics you will be reminded of the power in the cross to heal and strengthen you.

God sent His son, they called Him, Jesus;
He came to love, heal and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!

Chorus
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!

Chorus
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

And then one day, I’ll cross the river,
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain;
And then, as death gives way to vict’ry,
I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives!

By: Bill Gaither

Lord,

Help us all to live in the fullness of Your joy every day. Help us to remember daily the pain you bore so that we could be free to live abundantly. Let our lives be a celebration of Your love. I pray in Your name, Christ. Amen.