SHATTERING THE DARKNESS

As another Christmas holiday season comes to a closure, there are a few things that were on my heart that I wanted to share with you.

First, something that I think is worth pondering that seemed to resonate with me this Christmas season is the verse that says,

“..She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was not room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7 (NIV)

Thinking about that inn keeper who had no more rooms available I think is a good parallel to peek into our own lives.

…Do we have “room” for Him, Jesus, in the “inn” of our heart?

Have we accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord of our life?

Does He rule our lives?

Or is that “inn” too busy with things in this world that distract us?

Do we let other things take priority over living for Him?

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Another image that keeps recurring in my life this Christmas season is the verse that says,

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Luke 9:2 (NIV)

Jesus’ birth. as well as the ultimate act of sacrificing His very life for us, SHATTERED THE DARKNESS!

Before God sent Jesus to earth, the people were in darkness from sin and evil that entered the world through our first parents, Adam and Eve. God’s plan was then to send the world a Savior….to save us all from that evil. God did not want us to be in darkness.

Jesus entering the world means there is no more darkness….that DARKNESS IS SHATTERED by the LIGHT OF CHRIST!

The Darkness of ALL sin and evil is defeated. JESUS truly is the LIGHT!

Our lives need to reflect that LIGHT SHATTERING THE DARKNESS.

Light

For me this year, two events come to mind that I think reflect this LIGHT SHATTERING THE DARKNESS.

Last Christmas, I was truly blessed to have been part of some Christmas caroling at a nursing home where a fellow church member was confined to. We ended up caroling for her and then visited one other shut-in as well. You could tell that both people were blessed by that simple act, and they were singing along praising the Lord with us looking so happy and peaceful.

This year, I really had the urge to do that again. To bring that LIGHT SHATTERING THE DARKNESS to others. The lady we visited last year died during this past year. There was a gentleman from our church who has been sick and either in the hospital or nursing home for the past two years. He suffered immensely during this time. I thought he would be a great person to go caroling to this year. We found out a few days before the caroling date that he was back in the hospital and hospice was being called. He had gotten to the point of being unresponsive too. So, we felt it was not a good idea to go visit him. Ironically, we learned he died that evening we went caroling.

We ended up gathering eight of us to go caroling to three different shut-ins. I feel God truly worked it all out. The people we visited were so appreciative and I think the LIGHT SHATTERING THE DARKNESS helped brighten their holidays. Each couple we visited is going through such struggles and heart aches in their lives. The one family we are very close with and their daughter is going through a health trial right now. Her parents and I were crying as we stood singing Christmas carols, and it was neat to see that many of the people caroling had been praying for this gal by name, not knowing who she really was. So, now through seeing a picture of her, they can connect the face with the name and know it is this couple’s daughter.

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My eldest son had a wonderful idea to have the LIGHT SHATTERING THE DARKNESS for his one grandmother who lives alone. We usually end up entertaining three sets of people during the Christmas holiday by preparing feasts. I am so blessed that this son loves to prepare plan, prepare and execute delicious meals and even clean up the house before hand. He is very organized and efficient in all he does. He will even help me shop if he isn’t busy studying for college finals.

The one day he says, “We should make a meal for grandma and take it to her.” It has probably been about 15 years since we’ve gotten together for any holiday with her. She just feels more comfortable staying home. This year, my son actually said back in Oct. that this Grandma shouldn’t give us gifts this year as she does not have much money. She is retired and was helping out at an organization a little through the year, but this year it was much less time than prior years. Therefore, her income is very little. I thought that was a great thing for my son to recognize and be willing to not receive a present. Reluctantly, grandma agreed only if WE didn’t get her anything either.

To make it more challenging, this grandma is a vegetarian; we are definitely not! (though this son wouldn’t mind if we were!) So, coming up with a meal idea was definitely more difficult. But leave it to him! He came up with a soup idea and a dessert. So, a few hours before we wanted to arrive at grandma’s house, I called her to let her know that my son wanted to prepare a meal and what time we would arrive.

It ends up that the whole family crashed her place bringing all the dishes, glasses, cups, etc that we needed along with the food to her house. She was shocked to see us all. We overtook her dining room table that never gets used and made ourselves at home.

When we tried to head up the Christmas Caroling for the shut ins, my husband had thought about going to her apartment too, but that didn’t work out with the location of the other shut-ins we visited. So, he brought his guitar and we sang a few Christmas carols for her too.

When we left there, after about a two hour visit, grandma was in tears…tears of happiness. I think the LIGHT SHATTERING THE DARKNESS was a huge blessing to her. I think she will not soon forget that night, and that we have forged a new tradition to add to our holiday list!

Can you think of ways that you might have shattered the darkness in someone’s life this holiday season? I’d love to hear.

You might just bless someone else or inspire them to do that in the future.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and His glory appears over you.  –Isaiah 60:1-3  (NIV)

HUMBLENESS

This Christmas season one thing that has struck me is thinking about the Humbleness surrounding Christ’s entrance into this world.
From the different definitions, from a quick google search, for the word humbleness, I like the following definition the best:

not proud or arrogant; modest: to be humble although successful.

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Let’s first take a look at Mary, the mother of Jesus.  In my eyes, I consider Mary to be a woman who exemplifies humbleness.
We do not hear of her being popular in this world or of high status.
Here she was just a young gal, “…a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.”  –Luke 1:27 (NIV)  
The angel, Gabriel told Mary,  “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”  –Luke 1:35 (NIV)
I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.  –Luke 1:38  (NIV)  I think that final response displays humbleness on Mary’s part. She is trusting God and ready to be a part of His plan.
Mary gave us a powerful example of being humble yet successful in her acceptance of being the mother of Jesus.  She was the humble maid servant of God who through the Holy Spirit birthed our Savior! That is success for sure.

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Just as important is to keep in mind the humbleness of Joseph.
 Upon first hearing that Mary was going to have a child, he did have in mind to divorce her quietly, but when “…an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  –Matthew 1:20-21  (NIV), Joseph did what the angel had commanded him to do.
Taking someone to be your wife, when she is pregnant with the Son of God is humbleness on Joseph’s part. He, too, gave us a powerful example of doing what God tells you to do despite what others may think. That is success for sure.
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Photo credit by frankieleon under Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0)
At Christmas time, I think it is always a blessing to ponder the circumstances of Christ’s birth. Despite being the Savior of the world, He was born in humbleness.  
How many people do you know were born while their parents were at the end of a three day walking trip back to their home town to register for a census?  “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.” –Luke 2:6-7  (NIV)
Imagine giving birth to the Savior of the world in a barn like place and having to place the baby in an animal trough because there were no rooms available.

Jesus was born in the humblest of ways, yet He is the Savior of the world!  Being the Savior of the world is the ultimate success that anyone could experience.

So, this Christmas season, I pray that you ponder the powerful example of humbleness that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus gave to us over 2,000 years ago.
Let us focus on what we can learn and apply to our lives from their humbleness yet success in fulfilling God’s plan for their lives and for our sake. And let us lead lives in humbleness yet successful ways for our loving God!
May you remember the reason for the season….celebrating our Savior and the freedom He has brought us!
Merry Christmas my dear friends!
…God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.  –1 Peter 5:5-6  (NIV)
So the last will be first, and the first will be last.  –Matthew 20:16  (NIV)

RELATIONSHIPS

During the last few years, God has impressed upon my heart how vital relationships are in each of our lives. We truly are all connected and need each other to share with, learn from, and encourage one another. It is important to be aware of people in our lives who need us to be there for them and those that God puts in our life for us. It works both ways!
In your life, do you make time for relationships rather than always busying yourself with checking things off your to do list? It is something I struggle with but feel I am making progress on in my life.
For those of us who are more introverted, I think this realization of the importance of relationships in our lives might take a little more effort compared to those that are maybe naturally extroverted. But I think the extroverts can help encourage the introverts of the importance of sharing with others and maybe help them come out of their shells some.
There have been three or four incidences within a few weeks where God showed me the importance of relationships. I think the main lesson for me is that, yes….
…we do need each other
…we can all help each other
…and build the kingdom of God through our relationships.
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Photo credit by Celestine Chua under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
On Thanksgiving Day, I received a text from the Pre-K teacher I worked with the past two years who was just thinking of me and wishing me a nice day. This summer she moved about 1  1/2 hr away and I only saw her once since then when we were both at a funeral for a mutual friend. In the process of exchanging a few texts on Thanksgiving, we both said how great it would be to get together. I made sure I made an effort to contact her on my day off that week, and it was a day that worked for her as well.
It was neat to see how God used just that simple, little text to orchestrate our get together which was a huge blessing for both of us. She was excited to show me their new home and the church that her husband pastors, so I made the trek to their new place. It is always a pleasure to spend time with her, talk about the Lord, our families, and whatever else comes up. We enjoyed a nice lunch at a quaint little restaurant and her husband joined us for a bit. Four hours flew by and I know both of us were inspired and encouraged through our visit.
Sharing different parts of our lives with each other and in more depth was truly a blessing. So often I think I am the only that is going through something, but then I learn that is not really the case. Having that support and encouragement from other people helps us get through different things and might give us a different view point that we had not thought of.
Another friend of mine texted me on a Sunday to say she bought some tickets to a Women’s Tea at her church and wondered if I wanted to go. It was a blessing to learn that because of a sermon she heard about the importance of community, she decided to go the Tea and invite a few friends.  Again, it was a blessing spending time together, take time to reflect on the reason for the Christmas season, and it was powerful to see the speaker at the Tea echoed a devotional I had just read from the pastor of Third Day. God at work!
During the past year, my life has also been enriched through building community through a 32-week Bible Study and then a 10-week one. That coming together and sharing thoughts about the studies and even prayer requests builds relationships that are so vital in our lives.
Small groups are a great way to build relationships as well. I’ve been blessed to be meeting one on one with  a friend who experienced the Bible study with me and then we both shared an in-depth weekend retreat. It has been a true blessing to meet weekly with her to share our experiences, pray for each other and encourage one another.
Third day post
David Carr, Mac Powell, & Mark Lee, all of Third Day, with some Gomers in Fayetteville, NC  11/20/15
Attending Third Day concerts and getting to know the old time fans called Gomers shows me the importance of relationships as well. And as I’ve said many times, the guys of Third Day model for us the importance of relationships. They take the time to ask how your trip was, thank you for coming, and wish you safe travels home to show they care. The Gomers are a group of people, bonded together through their love for Third Day music, who realize the importance of relationships and are there to support one another via prayer, an encouraging word if needed, and sometimes even financially if some disaster is affecting someone.
Though not quite as vital and certainly not to replace our face-to-face relationships,  social media these days can help build relationships to a point and a definite way we can encourage others. There are more opportunities to pray for others, encourage someone with a kind word, and make a difference in their life.  I have been blessed to feel led to pray and encourage a few people this way, and truly have been blessed in return. You might just say one little thing that might have a huge impact on the other person. God can use even the smallest gesture or one sentence spoken in truth to change the other person or help them see something in a different light.
So, I encourage you to be aware of the importance of relationships in your life. Even meeting an elderly neighbor at the mailbox and talking with them and being really “present” for a few minutes, rather than being busy with your to do list, can make an impact on their life. Take time for those vital relationships that God puts in your path!
Feel free to share ways you have experienced how vital relationships have been in your life. Maybe helping you through an illness, providing transportation or meals for you when you couldn’t provide for yourself?
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.  –1 Thessalonians 5:11  (NIV) 

MOMENT BY MOMENT

Lord, help us to take
One day at a time
Not worrying about tomorrow
And live MOMENT by MOMENT.
Help us live each day
To the fullest for your glory
Soaking in the richness of everything
And live MOMENT by MOMENT.
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Photo credit by maymoron under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Lord, help us to see
You in everything around us
How you work mightily
While we live MOMENT by MOMENT.
Lord, help us to continually
Be refreshed
And renewed by your presence
As we live each moment,
MOMENT by MOMENT for you!
….For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who strengthens me.  –Philippians 4:11-13  (NIV)