More Than an Interval

Emmanuel did not come to be with us simply to create an interval where we could catch our breath before returning to the ordinary. Majesty did not don the robes of humanity to give us a change of scenery, a break from the usual pace. No, He has come to interrupt our existence. He has come to restore what was lost. He has come to transform the familiar into mystery and wonder. He has come to make all things new. This sacred pause is a catapult into uncharted territory, where the Divine collides with your story and redirects your path. You have permission to begin again. (from Just Adela)

As surely as the bows and tinsel are packed away with the ribbons and lights, so too, is the Christmas spirit which was just recently merry and bright. Marked down and sold at discount prices, there’s barely any reminders of the red, green, and gold decking the aisles of department stores. Treasured ornaments are tucked away in closets, lights are dimmed and carefully wrapped before being cloistered away in some box marked “fragile” as all signs of Christmas are removed from our dwellings.

For Christmas is, after all, merely a short reprieve from life as usual…

But that’s never the way God intended for Christmas to be. The birth of Glory among the souls of mankind was to be so much more than a story read once and put away until the following year. Majesty did not don robes of humanity to simply come for a visit. Emmanuel did not merely drop by for a short stay at the manger. He came to take up permanent residence within our lives.

To transform the fake and temporary with the authentic and eternal. For keeps.

Much more than a string of lights brightening the boughs of an artificial pine tree, the Light of the World has come to transform the darkness with the dawning of grace and truth. He has come to make all things new. To breathe life into the barren and silent womb. To bring joy in the place of mourning and sadness. To give peace that nestles into the souls of men and never leaves.

He has come to be with us – right here in this mess of hurt and pain that we call humanity- and He plans to stay until all is made right.

Until you and I are made right.

No matter that we may think the task impossible.

After all, impossible is merely an invitation for the Holy to come and declare Himself as Lord of all.

As Lord of us.

Miracle-worker.

Soul-shaper.

Healer and Restorer.

Author and Finisher of lives.

What will it require for you to invite Christ to collide with your story and redirect your path, to transform the pages of your heart and fill them with mystery and wonder?

In short, what will it take for you to allow the Spirit of Christmas to come and remain so you can celebrate all year long?

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When the Story is Not Mine to Tell

In recent weeks, my journal has been filled with prayers and petitions on the behalf of others. Situations that are very real, circumstances that have broken hearts, trials that include threats as seen in the movies yet are happening in real life. Words that, if released before the present scenes were fully complete, could even endanger the lives of others. In short, I live among the words of a story that is not mine to tell. Those words affect me deeply, but I am only a supporting role, not the main character. My perspective is my own, just as surely as the story belongs to another.

While movies and plays make a great stage for narration, there are other places where journals of privacy are the only theaters where the drama should be played out. Because the telling is filled with real pain, real temptations, real sins, real struggles, real failures. And I do not own the rights that allow me to present the tale from my point of view. For I am not the director. I am only a bystander watching another’s life unfold – for better or for worse.

As much as I want to change the past scenes of the story, I am powerless to so do. Words already spoken cannot be taken back again. Acts already committed cannot be undone. Some scenes have firmly settled into the pages of history, as unsettling as that is for me to accept. Mistakes have been recorded in the hearts of others, forming scars that are too deep for my ministrations to touch.

So what am I to do? How can I overlap my own story into the story of another and change the scenes that are yet to be lived? How can I help turn the painful plots into chapters sprinkled with hope and peace? How can I shine in my role as supporting actress while a friend leads the way in an impromptu performance that is sometimes shocking with the depths of its hurts, the complexities of its challenges?

Only by pleading for the mercies that are new every morning and flinging my arms around a measure of grace that is available with every moment of living.

By gently leading another to the truth that I have already found and reminding them that this same truth is meant to be found by them, too.

By showing them that their life is part of a much greater Story.

By pointing them to the One who fulfills the Lead Role with character – a character that is wholly trustworthy and always honorable as He seeks the welfare of everyone involved in this story.

By encouraging them to build a relationship with the One whose hands stretch out to grip them tightly throughout every part of this performance of life.

Some stories may not be mine to tell, but they are always God’s to lead. And they are all opportunities for me to shine His light brightly and extend love into the dark recesses of every scene, even if it is as simple as providing a short respite of comic relief.

Take heart, dear friends. Your story is far from over, and this present scene that seems such a struggle to conquer is merely moving us toward an ending that is promised to be glorious. But don’t just take my word for it…

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Story Toppers

Recently, there has been a story bouncing around on my facebook wall. According to local news reports, an unnamed man walked into our community’s WalMart store with $30,000 in his pocket and proceeded to present it to the clerk working in the layaway department. This generous gift paid off hundreds of layaway accounts.

It seems this kind act has set off a chain reaction. Many of the recipients of this financial gift were reported to have been so blessed by this gesture that they, in turn, have also anonymously helped pay off other layaway accounts.

Paying it forward… in every sense of the word.

And while I do not mean to make light of this wonderful holiday happening, I’ve got a story that tops it.

The following words were penned by a Christian woman whose life has been threatened on numerous occasions due to her conversion from Islam. Despite the threats, she continues to share the Gospel in ways that are clear, public, and filled with God’s love. Ways that have invited many others into the true Christmas story in a manner that exceeds the material blessings of this mortal world.

Here is her story:
A fanatic Muslim man wrote to me: “Until the last drop of my blood and the last breath in me, I will find you and kill you. This is my life purpose,” he said. He sent his picture along with his message. In his picture he was holding two machine guns and wearing a commando outfit. He had a green bandana on his forehead and a writing “For Allah.” 

With a heavy heart, I went into my closet and I wept. I wept not because I feared my life. I already gave it up for Christ Jesus when I started going in front of the TV cameras. I wept because the intense hatred in a man’s heart hurt me. I talked to the Lord, “Lord, what would you do? How would you answer?” Jesus said to me, “Remember, I died for this fanatic Muslim man too,” and He gave me the answer. 

I responded to the man. “You wrote me until your last drop of blood and last breath you will find me and kill me. I tell you, Until the last drop in my blood and last breath I will love you. Because my Lord Jesus says: ‘Love your enemies.’”

After two weeks, he wrote me back, “I couldn’t believe what you wrote me. How can you love someone like me? How can Your God love me? Tell me your story.” 

After several weeks of correspondences, he surrendered his life to Jesus.
WITH MAN THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE. NOT WITH GOD. WITH GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.

My precious sister in Christ is paying God’s love forward… in every sense of the Word. She chose to overcome hate with love, and I have a new brother in Christ because of it.

But believe it or not, I have yet another story that tops this. In fact, it not only tops these stories; it is the very reason these stories exist:

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
 and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:1-20)

Perhaps you have read or heard this story from Luke many times before, or maybe it is the very first time you’ve ever encountered the retelling of the birth of Jesus. The point is not in the number of times you have heard it, the point is in the hearing of it. The sad truth is that most of us hear much throughout our lives, yet remain unaffected by what we hear.

I pray that is not the case as we read the words of God. Because God’s Word is meant to affect us. It’s meant to pierce the depths of our hearts with the light of His love. It’s meant to change our lives.

The reason my friend could respond in love to the man who threatened her life was because she was secure in the love that Christ’s life offered her. The reason the man responded in wonder to her ability to choose love was because he had only been taught to hate. He had never heard about  the mercy of Jesus Christ.

Until someone loved him enough to tell him.

The real Christmas Story is the ultimate message of love:
The Son of God born in a manger because there was no room for Him elsewhere.
A King who wrapped Himself in the humble confines of humanity so we could see His glory here on earth.
A sinless Savior who embraced a cross so we could be declared innocent.
A triumphant Lord who conquered the grave so we could be freed from the grip of death – forever.

Today, I  invite you to step into the ultimate Christmas story – a life that lives to show His love. May we pay it forward so that the giving of the Gift continues.

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His Story in the Making

My story is God’s story,

Its pages filled with His fingerprints.

Smudges of the Divine tracing my days,

Impressions of His touch cast in glory upon my nights.

Whispers of love gracing every moment,

Shouts of deliverance filling the silence,

Overflowing my soul with the script of holiness.

 

Line after line holds the weight of His will,

Page after page turns with His purpose.

Aware or unaware, my days are steeped in His presence

As I am steadfastly molded from villain to heroine.

Character changed by the indwelling

Of a Spirit not my own.

 

A plot of twists and turns,

Of tragedy and comedy,

Action and conflict,

Climaxing toward an ending

That is really just the beginning

Of the greatest of all stories

Yet to be told.