Thursday, December 21, 2017

Breathing Jesus

The code word for me this Christmas has been “breathe.” I used to say the same thing to my girls growing up, because they had a tendency to hold their breath when they were nervous or stressed. 

God started speaking this to me at the end of November, as my husband and I were getting ready for a trip after Thanksgiving. Even though it was wonderful, we’ve agreed not to plan another vacation in the middle of the holidays! We were both struggling to finish projects and get everything ready for Christmas before we left. I was making myself sick—headaches, knots in my stomach, and unable to sleep at night. God spoke to my heart, “Remember to breathe, Beth.” 

“Oh right, Lord. Thanks for the reminder.” It has become a life giving word, pulling me back from insanity.

Have you forgotten to breathe lately? December can get like that, even if you don’t add a two week vacation on top of everything else. There is so much to do. We try to make it special and meaningful. We want to please everyone. Yet without the breath of God, we would cease to exist.

Maybe you’ve been running to and fro trying to get everything done in time to celebrate the birth of our Lord. But that’s just it, we’re celebrating Him yet so distracted and stressed about all the extra things we add to this season. 

It all began with a breath--The Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). 

I think it’s interesting that Jesus chose to give the Holy Spirit to His disciples with a breath when He appeared to them after His resurrection—Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:21-22).

Before the very first Christmas, God breathed His Son into the womb of a young virgin—wondrously, miraculously bringing the Messiah who would save us from our sins. Andy every Christmas, He breathes new life into our tired, frazzled spirits. He breathes light into a world of darkness; hope into our despair. And when we hold our breath, busy and distracted, forgetting to take in the wonder of this news, He reminds us to breathe.

Do you want to breathe today? Here are a few ideas I am putting to work:

  • Admire Christmas lights in your community
  • Revel in crisp winter air, frosty snow-covered trees, sunshine, or life-giving rain
  • Hold the ones you love with a longer than usual embrace
  • Greet people with a smile and take in the beauty of their faces
  • Stop to ponder the people in the nativity scene and their role in the Story of stories
  • Read a daily Advent or Christmas devotional
  • Read the Christmas story in Matthew, Mark, and Luke and BE part of the action
  • Eat less, but taste it more
  • Choose movies and entertainment that feed God’s Spirit in you and your family
  • Praise God for physical and spiritual life!

I’m so glad you took the time today to read my blog. I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos I’ve sprinkled in that represent every day moments of delight in this blessed season. May the breath of heaven hold you together, strengthen your frame, and fill your spirit with JOY everlasting. 

Merry Christmas!

#holidaystress #pauseforbreath #breathofGod #JesusChristmas

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Practicing Contentment

With Thanksgiving coming up I’ve been more aware of all the things I’m thankful for. I believe what Joanna Gaines said is true, “Gratitude makes what you have enough” (Magnolia Magazine). The happiest, most contented people I know aren’t necessarily wealthy, successful, or famous. They just appreciate what they have; they savor. And I think that’s the key. I also know contentment doesn’t come naturally; it takes practice. 

Paul said he learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Phil. 4:11), which implies he wasn’t always that way. When I read C.S. Lewis’ book Perelandra in college, I was struggling with food addiction—alternately binging and starving; trying to hide my problem; and full of shame  and self-loathing. So when I read the following words in chapter five I knew it was what I wanted. 

Ransom, the main character of the book, hasn’t been on the planet very long when he tastes Perelandra’s  fruit for the first time:

“He let the empty gourd fall from his hand and was about to pluck a second one, it came into his head that he was now neither hungry nor thirsty. And yet to repeat a pleasure so intense and almost so spiritual seemed an obvious thing to do. His reason, or what we commonly take to be reason in our own world, was all in favour of tasting this miracle again…Yet something seemed opposed to this 'reason'. It is difficult to suppose that this opposition came from desire, for what desire would turn from so much deliciousness? But for whatever cause, it appeared to him better not to taste again. Perhaps the experience had been so complete that repetition would be a vulgarity—like asking to hear the same symphony twice in a day.” 

Resisting the urge to reach for more? That’s almost unheard of. Voices call to us from everywhere to—eat more, buy more, do more, want more. The voices echo our sin nature. We attempt to fill the insatiable hollowness within, ending up emptier than ever. Until we discover that only God can fill the aching void and give us contentment independent of circumstances.

That doesn’t mean we don’t pursue success and strive to better ourselves, but not at the expense of the moment. That’s what I want to learn—how to be in the moment, with the person I’m with, with the stuff that I have—and not reach for more. Just savor.

This can even apply to waiting in line at the store (which some of you will be doing on Black Friday), driving a less than perfect car, during tedious moments at work or home, when kids are whiny and demanding, and when everyone else seems to have more of what you want. How did Paul learn to be content in moments like that? 

He never married, didn’t have children; was shipwrecked, starved, beaten, rejected; and he was unappreciated and abandoned by other believers. Yet he said he was content. 

When I’m feeling dissatisfied and empty, I look at his life and others who are content and note these commonalities:  Jesus and praise and the knowledge that this is not our forever home. What we have here is only temporary. So we taste, we savor, and rest in the knowledge that with Jesus, what we have is always enough.       

#Thanksgiving #gratitude #havingenough #secretofcontentment #Phil4:11

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Every Place You Set Your Foot, Prayer Walking Series: Day 31—Choose

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:15

You’ve probably heard this verse before. It’s key to the book of Joshua. And on this final day of the prayer walk series, I’d like to gather you all together and ask you the same question. Who are you going to serve?

Like the Israelites, we have ancestors who have served false gods. In Egypt there were over 2,000 gods. After serving as slaves in that culture for 430 years, the Israelites’ understanding of the one true God would have been muddied. That’s why God introduced himself to them through Moses, and showed how superior He was by defeating the ten main gods of Egypt through specifically targeted plagues.

The gods worshiped where you and I grew up are probably a little harder to pinpoint. Regardless of your economic status, the gods worshiped or served in your household might have included money, education, power, sensual pleasure, drugs or alcohol, physical fitness, patriotism, revenge, relationships, or even family. Some of these things are good balanced with other aspects of life. But anything that claims our thoughts, time, and affections ahead of God is a false god.

Joshua also mentioned the gods of the Amorites, where they were living. The Israelites had finally made it to the Promised Land, but had yet to take it over.  The people who lived there had rejected God and chosen their own variety of deities. These were a snare to many Israelites, because instead of obedience and holiness, their worship encouraged sexual immorality and wild behavior.

This sounds like our world today. No matter where in the world you’re reading from, there are gods that appeal to the part of us that wants to “do it our way.” People all over the world worship nature, psychology, atheism, humanism, New Age, witchcraft, shamanism, animism, various prophets and teachers, and so many more. Even if you don’t consciously follow any of these religions, it’s easy to absorb false beliefs, because the ideas are everywhere and subtly packaged.

All of them are rooted in the same lie the serpent used to entice Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden. He promised, “‘You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Gen. 3:4-5). To seek fulfillment apart from God is a dead end road.

Joshua called the people to make a conscious choice; it’s what we must do as well. Who will you serve? How you answer that question will determine all the other choices you make in life:

  • Who you marry
  • Who you pick for leaders
  • Whether you fear man or God
  • Whether you’ll pursue wealth or wisdom
  • Who your best friends are
  • How to express your sexuality
  • Whether you’re friends with the world or with God
  • Whether you’re on a path to death or to life everlasting

I hope this last day of the series isn’t your last prayer walk. I encourage you to think about the gods you’ve encountered in your lifetime. Ask God to reveal any you’ve bowed before or sacrificed those you love to, for self-gratification or the pursuit of truth. Ask Him to show himself mighty on your behalf—as the only Provider, Healer, Truth, Life, Light, Comforter, Lord, Savior, Friend, and Almighty God. Turn away from all others who claim to be those things, but are powerless to meet the deepest need of your soul.

As for me and my household, we have chosen, and will continue daily to choose Jesus, the only Lord and Savior. The only God.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:21

*My book Taking Back October is a terrific resource for families looking for a great discussion guide and ideas for Halloween alternatives! Available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle:

#whowillyouserve #whichgodisreal #asformeandmy #prayerwalking #spiritualwarfare #claimingterritory #Joshua24