Advent 2019

In a season of waiting

Each morning unfolds

Open hands to receive

The story being told

Clenched or closing

Refusing new grace

Shackles old thoughts

No mercy embraced

Sun rises slowly

Brings light to new ways

Trusting the process

Turns color from grays

A blanket of snow

Warms earth underneath

To bear the cold season

Hope springs new relief

For so many years

God’s people were yearning

A Savior foretold

A long time of learning

The birth of a baby

In a manger of hay

The answer to prayer

In the Father’s way

The King who came walking

Just like one of us

His holiness hidden

To love and not crush

This love that was given

Is heavy to bear

Yet when I receive it

I learn how to share

From Advent to Christmas

I must travel alone

Hand in hand with Jesus

To learn what He knows.

Released- Thoughts on John 8:31-32

“When you continue to embrace all that I teach, you prove that you are My true followers. For if you embrace the truth, it will release more freedom into your lives.” Jesus (John 8:31-32)

Jesus is speaking to new believers here. Just before, in verse 30, “many came to believe” in Him as He was speaking in response to the question “Who are you?”. These people wondered how Jesus could speak with such authority. Their spirits were stirred at the realization that this “Father” who sent Him was in fact, God. They accepted Jesus at His word because their hearts discerned truth as they listened, and they were given the gift of understanding. And then Jesus lays out the path to freedom. To simply continue in His word. To abide, dwell, endure, remain, stand, and not depart from the living voice of Jesus.

Belief in Jesus is a beautiful and profound first step. I remember the desperate desire for light in my darkness when I had come to the end of myself. My heart was ready and the utter relief of salvation lit up my soul. My entire being felt seen, known, and loved. I felt washed and clean. And for a time, I followed hard after God. I wanted to continue in my newfound freedom. But I did not remain there. For many years I teetered on the precarious cliff between living and embracing sin in my life, while my heart still yearned for Jesus. I wrestled with the cycle of wanting to do right, doing wrong anyway, and then being enslaved by shame and guilt. Unhealthy choices and selfish pride were my own undoing. I allowed my life to be ruled by the unrelenting current of being unintentional and just letting my life unwind without the disciplines of Jesus.

I do not regret the years leading to my latter, more recent ones because the struggles have given me the sort of pain that produces humility and compassion. Jesus wanted me to abide in His word and experience the freedom from sin He promised, because He loves me. But I made other choices, or failed to choose at all while languishing in indecision that brought much despair. Love wants the best for someone. God is love and Jesus is His tangible attempt to prove how true that is. He did not leave us to stumble around on our own. We have a well defined road map leading us to freedom and peace. All we have to do is follow the true Leader who will take us where our pure hearts’ desire wants to be. He will use our detours and wrong turns for His good, and we have the choice to decide how long we are to remain lost. Once we ask for directions, the right way is made clear.

Lord, I am grateful for this journey. Thank you for the grace to let me take the messy way. Your unchanging truth always leads me back to You. Help me to continue in Your word. May Your truth set and keep me free to love and share Your way with others. I am grateful for the community of believers You have surrounded me with. Help me to love the way you do. Help me to live in obedience and follow where You lead. In Jesus’ name Amen.

Abiding in the Vine – Thoughts on John 15:5

“I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” NIV

“I am the sprouting vine and you’re my branches. As you live in union with me as your source, fruitfulness will stream from within you—but when you live separated from me you are powerless.” TPT

Jesus is the source of freedom and fruitfulness. When we choose to abide in Him, He will abide in us. This is a powerful union. The purpose is to produce goodness or “fruit”. A branch that is cut off from the source of the vine will wither and eventually die. Remaining with the vine, our lives will produce the sweetest fruit. Depending on how strong the branch is, it may survive a while before withering, after being cut off from the vine. But without the continual flow of life sustaining sap, the fruit will be weak if it bears any at all. It is my choice to abide in Jesus, the true vine of life, and the fruit He produces is delicious.

When I am in the presence of someone whose life is sustained by Jesus, I feel energized. They have their own connection to the source of vitality. When combined with mine, I feel stronger and energized. God can do greater things with us together. Jesus is right there in the midst with us like He says in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” On the flip side, when someone’s life source is anything else, it can feel as though they are tapping into me for their source of life, and I begin to feel depleted. The same goes for me. When I seek life through others, looking to them to come through for me rather than letting Jesus be my source of abundant life, I become clingy. Or I reach for things that are not life giving.

I want to share my life with others and love on them right where they are. I want to bring life the way God has brought life to me. In order to produce good fruit like forgiveness, humility, compassion, and kindness I must cultivate and care for my connection to Jesus. He is my life source and I must guard and protect my heart, the wellspring. The world pulls on me, so I must be careful not to become disconnected from the vine.

Lord, Thank You for Your life sustaining power. Produce in me a pure heart and let my life bear good fruit. Forgive me when I have disconnected from You and tried to sustain myself without You. Protect me and care for our connection as my vine dresser. In Jesus name, my true vine, amen.

Believe

Twinkling lights of Christmas cheer 

Joyous tunes for all to hear

Brisker air is blowing through

Smiles are wrapped in all we do

As we rock around the tree

Remind us of the gift that’s free

A Father’s love with hands of grace

The manger holds a baby’s face

Born of Mary, God’s true Son

Promise foretold, the war is won

When Old St. Nick comes to town

Help me remember the bloody crown

Beauty from ashes, darkness to Light

Turns feeling forsaken to merry and bright

Denying our pain does not make it true

But the love of our Savior will strengthen you

The most perfect gift we could ever receive

Is already ours, in our hearts to believe.