Advent, Christmas, Jesus, miracle, mystery, magic, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry, nonprofit

The Magic of Christmas: Remembering the Miracle All Year Long

Christmas does not end on December 26. The magic of Christmas, the miracle and mystery of Jesus can be celebrated every day, all year long. 



I know it sounds a little funny reading a Christmas after Christmas. Many people have put Christmas behind them. The tree and lights are stored away; the stockings are no longer hung. The Christmas cookies and leftovers have long disappeared and all the candy canes are on clearance.

The year is closing out, and now our minds are set on the new year, new beginnings, improving our lives and trying new things. We set lofty goals and resolutions as we send our kids back to school for a new semester (some with new shoes). The grocery store aisles are packed with red and pink hearts and even St. Patrick’s Day decor. The radio stations are back to playing their “normal” songs. The Baby in the manger lays forgotten in a closet until next year.

Christmas does not end on December 26. The magic of Christmas, the miracle and mystery of Jesus can be celebrated every day, all year long. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional | Christian Nonprofit #devotional #scripture #Advent #Christmas #Jesus #magic #mystery #miracle

Lasting Magic

Yet we don’t have to forget. What if Christmas kept going all year round? I’m not talking about the stress of Christmas – the shopping, wrapping, baking, and elf-hiding. It’s the magic, the mystery and the wonder that lasts through January, February and all year long.

I want to focus on a unique aspect of the Christmas Story, the Wise Men also called “Magi.” Who were these mysterious foreigners, and how did a single star lead them to Jesus?

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’

Matthew 2:1-2, NIV

The Wise Men were magicians, sorcerers, and foreigners from the East. We know that they did not previously know or worship God. Yet, they came to Jesus.

They came to see The One whose power and majesty far outweighed any wisdom or magic trick they could concoct. They knew He was special, and they knew He was worth their time. These foreign magicians knew He was God Eternal, the Everlasting King.

The Wise Men saw all of this in a single star, which led them to bow before a tiny little Baby.

Lasting Mystery

Matthew, Jesus’ disciple and author of this book, originally wrote to a Jewish audience. He was very intentional on multiple occasions to demonstrate how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah. 

In Jewish times, people who were Gentile (foreigner or non-Jews) were considered unclean and unholy. Why would Matthew make sure to document to a primarily Jewish audience, that these non-believers from another land came to worship Jesus?

And better yet, why would God call these men from far away when they were not His people? Why did foreign magicians have such a crucial role in the Christmas story?

God does not think the way we think. Or even the way we want Him to. God caused Gentile men, who did not know Him, to travel to the country of Israel, to the rundown town of Bethlehem in order to worship Him, as a baby.

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:9, NIV

Lasting Majesty

Another significant person in the Christmas account actually lived 700 years before Jesus was even born: Isaiah. Isaiah was a prophet of God to the people of Judah during the reigns of four different Jewish kings. In Isaiah 6, we read about an incredible encounter Isaiah has with Jesus on the throne.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.’

Isaiah 6:1-3, NIV

Isaiah later gets the famous message that we hear at every Christmas pageant and see on many Christmas cards.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6, NIV

Isaiah saw the majesty of the Lord, both in His heavenly form on His throne, and in His human form, as a baby. Both are majestic, and both are holy.

As we look at the Baby in the manger, we can remember that God chose the unlikely foreigners to lead the way in worship. We can stare at the mystery and magic of His birth and remember that God’s ways are higher than our own. Even when we read Matthew’s recount of the story or Isaiah’s prophetic words, we rejoice, that the grace of God cuts through cultural barriers, and systems.

Lasting Trust

Most of us do not feel like Wise Men, but we might feel like outsiders. We can trust, that the Light of God will lead us to Jesus, no matter where we have come from.

We can trust that He is worthy of our time, worthy to be worshiped, no matter what the world looks like around us.

When we see that little Baby in the manger and when God’s ways don’t make sense, we can rejoice with the angels. We can declare, “Holy, Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty,” because that is who He is.

Christmas does not end on December 26. The magic of Christmas, the miracle and mystery of Jesus can be celebrated every day, all year long. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional | Christian Nonprofit #devotional #scripture #Advent #Christmas #Jesus #magic #mystery #miracle

unsplash-logoNathan Anderson
Creation, fruit, God’s Kingdom, presence, quiet, treasures, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Blackberries: Seven Lessons from the Blackberry Patch

There are many kingdom lessons woven throughout creation. Here are some things I gleaned in the sacred art of picking blackberries.



I am in awe of the many beauties of creation. These glorious colors and beings God spoke into existence, take my breath away. Recently, I discovered yet another little blessing tucked away on the hillside behind our house, amidst weeds, thorns, and wildflowers. In my botanical chaos, there lies a wild blackberry patch. 

You can imagine my excitement as I saw our first berries. Visions of blackberry pie and rows of blackberry jam clouded my thoughts. I just knew that the minute they were ripe, I would have a bountiful harvest. While I have harvested some berries, I still don’t even have enough for one pie (I’m close though*). 

However, my hours spent in the blackberry patch have not been in vain. God is there. And, He is speaking through my simple task of berry picking. Here’s what I have learned…

There are many kingdom lessons woven throughout our otherwise menial tasks. Here are some things I gleaned in the sacred art of picking blackberries. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #creation #fruit #GodsKingdom #presence #quiet

Wear Proper Clothing

I was a little over-ambitious once I learned that my blackberry stalks were fruit-bearing plants. As soon as I thought berries were ready, I threw on a pair of boots with some old, thin jeans and jumped right into a mess of overgrown weeds and thorns. I was NOT prepared to pick blackberries. Needless to say, after that, I made sure to wear long sleeves and thick pants.

In Matthew 22, Jesus tells the story of a king who is having a wedding feast for his son. Many guests arrive, but the king is offended by one who is not wearing wedding garments. 

‘Now, when the king entered the banquet hall, he looked with glee over all his guests. But then he noticed a guest who was not wearing the wedding robe provided for him. So he said, ‘My friend, how is it that you’re here and you’re not wearing your wedding garment?’ But the man was speechless. Then the king turned to his servants and said, ‘Tie him up and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be great sorrow, with weeping and grinding of teeth.’ For everyone is invited to enter in, but few respond in excellence.’

Matthew 22:11-14, The Passion Translation

For the longest time, this parable has made no sense to me. I’ve thought, “Well, Jesus said it, so it must be good”. Yet, in the blackberry patch, my clothing really seemed to matter.

It also matters in the Kingdom of God, and I’m not talking about your “Sunday best.” The garments God gives us to wear are spiritual – garments of grace and righteousness to cover our shame. 

Reach Past the Thorns

Blackberries grow on tall stalks that are covered in thorns. You have to reach past the thorns to get to the fruit. Every time, I have collected berries from the patch, I have been stuck multiple times by tiny (and painful) little spikes. But, that is where the fruit grows, right smack in the middle of a bunch of thorns!

 And everything I’ve taught you is so that the peace which is in me will be in you and will give you great confidence as you rest in me. For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world! 

John 16:33, TPT

Beauty and blessing can grow together with pain. If you are afraid of the thorns, you will not get many blackberries.

Wait until they are ripe!

This is what the Lord says: ‘At just the right time, I will respond to you. On the day of salvation I will help you. I will protect you and give you to the people as my covenant with them. Through you I will reestablish the land of Israel and assign it to its own people again.’

Isaiah 49:8, NLT

Just before blackberries ripen, they are a beautiful bright red! They almost look just like raspberries. They seem so sweet and tasty, but they are sour. So sour.

Blessings from God are no different. We beg God to move on our timetable, and He is simply saying to us, “My Dear, wait until the fruit is ripe. You will not like it now. Trust me. Just be patient a little longer.”

His timing is always perfect. HE always comes at just the right time.

Search for the Blackberries

Blackberries are not always obvious. Sometimes you have to really search for them.

And I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, Who calls you by your name.

Isaiah 45:3, AMPC
»«

Then you will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:13, AMPC

Size of  the Blackberries

The size of the plant doesn’t determine the size of the fruit. Oh, I love this one so much! Sometimes, I find the biggest blackberries on the smallest plants; even new baby plants produce beautiful lush fruit.

To me, this is such a reminder of the kingdom of God. Jesus said that we will know a tree by its fruit. It’s not by its thick trunk (or giant stalk in the case of blackberries), not by the perfectly shaped leaves, or even its soaring height. No, a plant is known by its fruit. Every plant, even the new, little ones have the ability to produce fruit.

‘You must determine if a tree is good or rotten. You can recognize good trees by their delicious fruit. But if you find rotten fruit, you can be certain that the tree is rotten. The fruit defines the tree.’

Matthew 12:33, TPT

Surprises

For me, little gifts came in the form of butterflies and dew drops. A giant butterfly, at least four inches across lands right in front of me one day. On another occasion, I see fresh dew drops covering the leaves in the middle of the day. These simple treasures remind me that God is good and magnificent. 

There are unexpected surprises when you are looking for the blessing. When our eyes and hearts are fixed on heaven, we will be blessed in ways we never expected. Sometimes those blessings come as a perspective shift or a heart change. Sometimes, it comes in the nearness of His presence.

It’s not about the berries.

It’s not about the berries at all, but about berry picking. Let’s be honest here. If I really wanted blackberries for a pie, I could get in my car, drive to the grocery store and buy a carton of fresh berries to bring home and put in a pie. I could even be extra earthy and buy them from a farmers market or local farm.

But, there is just something special about walking up and down the berry patch, picking berries with my own two hands and suffering all the sticks because of it. My backyard berry patch isn’t just an overgrown mess of weeds and berries. It is a still, sacred place where I can be alone with my Creator, letting Him lead me through the briers, listening to His still small voice and adoring Him in the quiet beauty of creation.

Walking with Jesus is never about the fruit that we produce, but always about simply walking with Him.

Walking with Jesus is never about the fruit that we produce, but always about simply walking with Him. Click To Tweet
blackberry pie
*I finally gathered enough to bake that pie.

There are many kingdom lessons woven throughout our otherwise menial tasks. Here are some things I gleaned in the sacred art of picking blackberries. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #creation #fruit #GodsKingdom #presence #quiet

unsplash-logoAurel Serban
Wait, waiting, hold, season, purpose, fruitful, joy, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Hold: Learning to Love and Enjoy God’s Waiting Room

When everything is put on hold, God is still moving. We can enjoy the waiting rooms of life because, with God, no season is in vain.



Sitting on her pillow, holding her knees in her chest, she rocked herself back and forth as tears streamed down her face. She tried to journal, tried to pray, tried to worship, but all she could do was cry. She reached for the tissue, as her nose swelled again and snot settled on her upper lip. 

“Why?!?” she screamed inwardly! “God, I’m trying to trust you. I want to hear you! I want to obey, but why aren’t you speaking? Why am I still waiting?” she bawled in the dark. Then, resigned to the fact that life was still on hold, she crawled under her covers, laid her head on a tear-stained pillow and went to sleep. 

When everything is put on hold, God is still moving. We can enjoy the waiting rooms of life because, with God, no season is in vain. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #fruitful #joy #purpose #season #wait

Life on Hold

A hospital waiting room tends to freeze time as if our world is suddenly put on hold. We step into its space, waiting for news of a loved one.

Some of my favorite memories have happened in a waiting room. I was just four years old, sitting on vinyl chairs with my grandparents and my little sister when my dad came around the corner in full scrubs. He held my sister and me on his two sides and announced the arrival of our baby brother! 

Gramma

As a college student, I remember sitting in the waiting room, with all of my extended family, while my grandfather was in surgery. My enthusiastic Gramma dazzled us all with treasured tales as we waited. Time stopped, and I watched my grandmother’s eyes glisten as she told story after story of her childhood and college years. Growing up in Louisiana in the ’40s, falling in love with my grandfather in the ’50s, the early days in her marriage, the 60’s as she raised my mom and her three sisters.

To this day, I barely remember why Granddad was having surgery, and I have no idea how long we waited. But I will never forget some of her stories, or how it felt to be all together. It was pure magic.

And, there are the countless times I have sat in a doctor’s office waiting room with my own kids, reading books together, or playing “I Spy,” and, taking time to be still and make the most of our wait. 

The irony of it all has not escaped me. After all, waiting rooms are often a place of frustration or anxiety. Rarely do you see people enjoy their wait, and certainly nobody throws a party in a hospital waiting room!

God’s Waiting Room

Waiting rooms can be beautiful places, where memories are made; yet, waiting for God to move rarely feels beautiful. 

I have sat in the waiting rooms of life more than a few times. Several years ago, after my husband lost his job, I kept begging God to show us what was next. I felt like everything was put on hold, and I was stuck. I was willing to do anything and go anywhere, except sit still and wait! Sound familiar?

I waited patiently and expectantly for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.

Psalm 40:1, AMPC

As I began writing this post, I was waiting for my fourth child to make his debut. I was in pain, and emotional. I was uncomfortable. So, I strove to make something happen, but in the end, all I could do was wait.

Over and over, Jesus showed me Isaiah 55:1…

Wait and listen, everyone who is thirsty! Come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Yes, come, buy [priceless, spiritual] wine and milk without money and without price [simply for the self-surrender that accepts the blessing].

Isaiah 55:1, AMPC

And now, I am typing one-handed holding a bubbly, bright-eyed three-week-old wiggling on my lap. Like most things that require all of my patience, he is worth the wait!

Wait with Purpose

Waiting is HARD. Whether we wait with expectancy or anxiety, either way means to stretch ourselves and hope for something that we don’t fully see yet. 

Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.

Psalm 27:14, AMPC 

The truth is, God does not put our lives on hold, rather He holds our lives. We don’t wait for God to move. God is moving, and we wait for Him to speak. And, in the waiting, He is not silent and we are not without purpose. 

God does not put our lives on hold, rather He holds our lives. We don't wait for God to move. God is moving, and we wait for Him to speak. And, in the waiting, He is not silent and we are not without purpose. Click To Tweet

Wait with Joy

Through all of my times of perceived waiting. The Lord continues to show me, now is my time and right now is my calling. This place and these people right in front of me are my purpose. Enjoy this moment.

Even when we feel like nothing is happening, God is playing the overture before the show begins. We can choose to be anxious and impatient with the process, or we can sit back and enjoy the music. 

If you are in a season of waiting, this IS your moment. It IS your right now. Today IS your season. Enjoy the day. 

Waiting IS hard, but it is not fruitless. With God, no season is ever in vain. 

When everything is put on hold, God is still moving. We can enjoy the waiting rooms of life because, with God, no season is in vain. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #fruitful #joy #purpose #season #wait

unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt
mountain, valley, grace, light, darkness, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Mountaintop: The Grace of the Mountains and Valleys

We often pursue the mountaintop experiences, yet life’s gracious road takes us through both the mountains and the valleys. The valley is a place of mercy. 



My family and I recently moved to the mountains for my husband’s new job. We have a beautiful house just outside town, with stunning views. I am in absolute awe of the peace and tranquility our little mountain retreat provides. Sunrises and sunsets light up the sky in spectacular colors. And oh the stars, I’ve never seen so many! Our mountain haven is truly a gift from God.

Yet, living in the mountains at the top of a ridge has also given me perspective. Because, while the mountaintop is uniquely beautiful, there are challenges with mountaintop living, too.

We often pursue the mountaintop experiences, yet life's gracious road takes us through both the mountains and the valleys. The valley is a place of mercy. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #darkness #grace #light #mountain #valley #devotional #scripture

Mountaintop Weather

As I am writing, I hear the wind howling against my windows outside. I have never in my life heard wind as strong as the wind we have heard in our short three months of living in the mountains. (And I grow up in Texas tornado country).

The wind is so strong and powerful! Sometimes our house almost shakes in the hands of this mighty rush. It is a violent force that carries a sort of reverence in its wake. This wind does not make me afraid, but I certainly sit up and take notice.

The mountaintop is more exposed to, not only the wind but all the elements of the weather. Oftentimes, there will be rain, ice, or snow at the top of the mountain. Whereas in the valley, the weather is more gentle. The air can be cold and harsh at the top of the mountain, and the fog sometimes gets so thick, you cannot see a car length ahead.

Mercies of the Valley

We naturally pursue the mountaintop experiences, yet life’s gracious road takes us through both the mountains and the valleys. The valley is a place of mercy.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4, ESV

Our back porch looks over a small valley, and sometimes I love to just sit and stare at our little valley. I’ve noticed a few things about the valley that I didn’t realize before.

First of all, as the sun gets higher in the sky, light pours into the valley! Sometimes, it is overcast at the top of the ridge, while the valley is full of light. Rarely, is our little valley dark and sunless.

We tend to think that the valley is a dark, depressing place. David refers to the valley as a “shadow of death” in Psalm 23. Although, in the words of D.L. Moody, “If there is a shadow, there must be light there.”

David also says that he is not afraid, because he knows, God, our Holy Shepherd, is right there with him. We are never ever alone in the valley.

The valley is safe.

The valley is warm.

In the valley, we are never alone.

The Grace of Mountains and Valleys

As hikers, when we crest the mountain peak and look out over the valleys below; we breathe a sigh of contentment. “Ah, the hike was hard, but the view is worth it,” one of us will usually say. The view on the mountaintop is beautiful,  but the atmosphere is docile, quiet, solemn and lonely.

The view may never get old, but eventually, there always comes the time to turn around and begin the descent. The mountaintop is wonderful, and the valley is merciful.

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 125:2, ESV

On the mountaintop, we see the beauty of the Lord, in the valley, we learn to hold His hand. We need both. Do not fear where He may lead you, every place is for knowing Him.

On the mountaintop, we see the beauty of the Lord. In the valley, we learn to hold His hand. We need both. Do not fear where He may lead, every place is for knowing Him. Click To Tweet

We often pursue the mountaintop experiences, yet life's gracious road takes us through both the mountains and the valleys. The valley is a place of mercy. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #darkness #grace #light #mountain #valley #devotional #scripture

Kal Visuals

honor, hope, light, voice, social media, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Voice: Speak Hope in the Midst of Turmoil and Division

Every entertainer loves a captive audience. Yet, we do not have to become captive to the media’s show. We can rise above and be a voice of hope. 



In our house, we have several little sayings that remind each of us who we are, and what we are called to. For example, I often hear a tiny four-year-old voice proclaim, “Harndens don’t give up,” when I am complaining that something is too hard. Our family motto declares “We are Harnden Heroes. We live by the fruit of the Spirit for the eternal purposes of God.”

These little sayings are fun and cute, but they constantly remind my kids (and my husband and I) that we are Harndens, and Harndens live according to God’s ways.

This same principle applies to the people of God. We are His chosen people, and because we belong to the King, we live according to the ways of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Every entertainer loves a captive audience. Yet, we do not have to become captive to the media's show. We can rise above and be a voice of hope. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #honor #socialmedia #hope #light #voice

His Kingdom and Our Culture

My heart breaks over the constant political turmoil in our country. You don’t have to look too far or associate with a particular political party to recognize the incredible evil American humans are capable of. These are dark days to be sure. And the media doesn’t help one bit.

I have struggled with how to respond. Should I blast all my social media contacts with articles and memes that support my view in the name of standing up for truth and justice? Should I engage in online arguments that add fuel to the political fire? Or, should I be silent, say nothing at all and grow numb to evil so as not to offend anyone?

I’m ashamed to say that while my emotions may be raging and my heart pounding as I read the news, I usually fall into the last category. Be silent. Don’t stir up trouble. Social media doesn’t help anything anyway. Stay away from the political scene and just pray.

This is usually my default as I succumb to the lie that I don’t really have a voice.

Voice of The King

But I believe God has called me, and us, to something higher. We are not to be silent. Rather, we are the mouthpiece of the Living God. We do have a voice and that voice is called to speak the language of HOPE.

We hold in our hands and our hearts the answer to the world’s problems and it doesn’t sit with a politician.

Hope is in a Man, a King, who gave up His throne in Heaven to serve and love humanity. A God who chose to die, to give His own life, so we could know Him more fully! A God who lived and loved as a man on earth, who always spoke the truth, and demonstrated grace.

He healed the sick, turned water into wine, turned over tables, and hung on a cross with sinners. Jesus was fully God and fully man. He lived every day of His life by the power of the Holy Spirit, without sin. He loved unashamedly and He never once compromised. He changed the face of church and religion.

This Man, Jesus, dug deep into the pit of hell to set us free from the evil in this world. The evil in our own hearts. He rescued all people of every tribe and nation, and made a way for us to know Him and live forever with Him. He gave us the tools to live wholeheartedly for Him and empowers us daily to do so.

I want to be His mouthpiece!

Be a Voice of Light

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.

Matthew 5:14, NIV

Jesus, Himself, called us forward to be light. He chose and set us apart. He placed us in our culture on purpose, so that we could bring light to the world around us. Are we meant to be light in a well-lit room? Of course not. Light shines best in the darkness. Does light fear the darkness? No, it overpowers it.

Our country is a dark place, but we are His lights! We get the incredible opportunity to walk in light and show others how to navigate the darkness.

And Sisters, if you know Jesus, He lives in you and gives you all the light you need.

Be A Voice of Honor

One way we can shine brighter than the mess around us is through honor. Our culture has forgotten how to show dignity one another. But, we live for a different Kingdom. The Kingdom of Heaven is a culture of honor.

Honor every person in every situation, stage of life, culture, political party, and position. You can greatly disagree and still choose to honor. We show honor to others because of who God is and who we are in Him.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, [God’s] own purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

1 Peter 2:9, AMPC

God created every person in His image, and He is worthy of our honor. To be the voice of Jesus, we MUST be the voice of honor. We must choose to see people as God sees them. And we honor others because of who we are in Christ. A woman who is CHOSEN, ROYAL and SET APART is a person who respects those in front of her.

We are called to display the virtues of HIM. He called us out of darkness and into marvelous light. We, too, have the privilege to stand as a light and call others out into His light. Wow! What a calling!

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

Romans 12:9-10, NLT

For the Christian, choosing to honor is not an option. Because we belong to Christ, we are the voice of hope. Hope speaks with honor.

For the Christian, choosing to honor is not an option. Because we belong to Christ, we are the voice of hope. Hope speaks with honor. Click To Tweet

How To Be His Voice

We do not have to become captive to the media’s circus. We can rise above and speak life.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life].

Proverbs 18:21, AMPC

The words we say in person or online are so important. We literally have the power to spark fear in people or bring comfort with just our voice. Here are a few things to consider when responding to the crises around us…

Speak hope, not fear. When you share and comment, let your comments be laced with love and the promises of Christ. Our world needs to remember that Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). We need to know that He is always with us and that God is just.

Spread good news…whenever you see or read it. Take every opportunity to use your words and influence to encourage others.

Listen before you speak. This one messes with me. I am NOT a very good listener because I have a lot of passion and a lot of things to say. But Jesus says through James that His people are to be slow to speak and quick to listen (James 1:19). In order to help the world, we have to hear their cries.

In all things pray. Before you click that “share” button simply pray. Ask Him to check your own heart to root out gossip and anger. And pray that Jesus will use your words for His purposes.

Our world is changing, but our God remains the same. We can be His voice of Hope to a very broken world.

Every entertainer loves a captive audience. Yet, we do not have to become captive to the media's show. We can rise above and be a voice of hope. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #honor #socialmedia #hope #light #voice

Every entertainer loves a captive audience. Yet, we do not have to become captive to the media's show. We can rise above and be a voice of hope. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #honor #socialmedia #hope #light #voice

Kelly Sikkema

Christmas, Jesus, miracle, worship, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Magic: Remembering the Miracle of Christmas All Year

Christmas does not end on December 26. The magic of Christmas, the miracle and mystery of Jesus can be celebrated every day, all year long. 



I know it sounds a little funny reading a Christmas post at the end of January. Many people have put Christmas behind them. The tree and lights are stored away; the stockings are no longer hung. The Christmas cookies and leftovers have long disappeared and all the candy canes are on clearance.

It is 2019, and now our minds are set on the new year, new beginnings, improving our lives and trying new things. We set lofty goals and resolutions as we send our kids back to school for a new semester (some with new shoes). The grocery store aisles are packed with red and pink hearts and even St. Patrick’s Day decor. The radio stations are back to playing their “normal” songs. The Baby in the manger lays forgotten in a closet until next year.

Christmas does not end on December 26. The magic of Christmas, the miracle and mystery of Jesus can be celebrated every day, all year long. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #encouragement #Christmas #Jesus #miracle #worship

Lasting Magic

Yet we don’t have to forget. What if Christmas kept going all year round? I’m not talking about the stress of Christmas – the shopping, wrapping, baking and elf-hiding. It’s the magic, the mystery and the wonder lasts through January, February and all year long.

I want to focus on a unique aspect of the Christmas Story, the Wise Men, also called “Magi.” Who were these mysterious foreigners, and how did a single star lead them to Jesus?

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’

Matthew 2:1-2, NIV

The Wise Men were magicians, sorcerers and foreigners from the East. We know that they did not previously know or worship God. Yet, they came to Jesus.

They came to see The One whose power and majesty far outweighed any wisdom or magic trick they could concoct. They knew He was special, and they knew He was worth their time. These foreign magicians knew He was God Eternal, the Everlasting King.

The Wise Men saw all of this in a single star, which led them to bow before a tiny little Baby.

Lasting Mystery

Matthew, Jesus’ disciple and author of this book, originally wrote to a Jewish audience. He was very intentional on multiple occasions to demonstrate how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah. 

In Jewish times, people who were Gentile (foreigner or non-Jews) were considered unclean and unholy. Why would Matthew make sure to document to a primarily Jewish audience, that these non-believers from another land came to worship Jesus?

And better yet, why would God call these men from far away when they were not His people? Why did foreign magicians have such a crucial role in the Christmas story?

God does not think the way we think. Or even the way we want Him to. God caused Gentile men, who did not know Him, to travel to the country of Israel, to the rundown town of Bethlehem in order to worship Him, as a baby.

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:9, NIV

Lasting Majesty

Another significant person in the Christmas account actually lived 700 years before Jesus was even born: Isaiah. Isaiah was a prophet of God to the people of Judah during the reigns of four different Jewish kings. In Isaiah 6, we read about an incredible encounter Isaiah has with Jesus on the throne.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Isaiah 6:1-3, NIV

Isaiah later gets the famous message that we hear at every Christmas pageant and see on many Christmas cards.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6, NIV

Isaiah saw the majesty of the Lord, both in His heavenly form on His throne, and in His human form, as a baby. Both are majestic, and both are holy.

As we look at the Baby in the manger, we can remember that God chose the unlikely foreigners to lead the way in worship. We can stare at the mystery and magic of His birth and remember that God’s ways are higher than our own. Even when we read Matthew’s recount of the story or Isaiah’s prophetic words, we rejoice, that the grace of God cuts through cultural barriers, and systems.

Lasting Trust

Most of us do not feel like Wise Men, but we might feel like outsiders. We can trust, that the Light of God will lead us to Jesus, no matter where we have come from.

We can trust that He is worthy of our time, worthy to be worshiped, no matter what the world looks like around us.

When we see that little Baby in the manger and when God’s ways don’t make sense, we can rejoice with the angels. We can declare, “Holy, Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty, ” because that is who He is.

We can trust, that the Light of God will lead us to Jesus, no matter where we have come from. We can trust that He is worthy of our time, worthy to be worshiped, no matter what the world looks like around us. Click To Tweet

Christmas does not end on December 26. The magic of Christmas, the miracle and mystery of Jesus can be celebrated every day, all year long. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #encouragement #Christmas #Jesus #miracle #worship

unsplash-logoSimon Matzinger

chaos, grace, kindness, season, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Kindness: 3 Tips for Floating on the Gift of God’s Grace

The gift of God’s grace can be hard to accept. Acceptance means we are flawed and need help. But God’s kindness sustains us in our weaknesses. 



Many different seasons make up life. Some seasons are full of blessings, some full of heartache. Seasons can be filled with joy, hope, trials, grieving, and chaos. My current season holds all of the above! 

For us, this season started back in August, when we found out we are pregnant with our fourth child! We are absolutely overjoyed to welcome our little boy this spring. Immediately, I felt the Lord say that the child in my womb is a symbol of a new season of grace and favor for our family.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. 

Isaiah 43:19, NIV

The gift of God's grace can be hard to accept. Acceptance means we are flawed and need help. But God's kindness sustains us in our weaknesses. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional

Grace-Filled

As I ponder over the past four months, I have truly seen the kindness of God abound in every area of our family life. However, a grace-filled season is not necessarily easy. And, it has not been an easy season for us. Just to be real, this season has been crazy!

My husband recently accepted a job working for an incredible ministry in another city. While, this is an amazing opportunity for our family, moving (while pregnant and with three kids) comes with its own set of challenges… 

I have peace with the unknown, but I have all the feels. 

I feel impatient with the process, and at the same time, I want to savor each moment just a little bit longer.

I want to cry. I want to scream. I want to leap for joy.

I just want to be settled in my new house, and I never want to leave my current one.

I can’t wait for Christmas. I hope our actual day holds up to the picturesque Hallmark scene in my head. 

I’m so excited for this new adventure ahead, and I’m slightly terrified I won’t be cut out for the job.

I’m looking forward to our new friends and community, but I am mourning leaving the ones I love here. 

The back-and-forth is exhausting. I’m longing to just be HOME. But, I know that home is heaven, and I hope in that. 

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,

Hebrews 12:28,NIV

Kindness

How do you feel about the move?

I hear this almost every day. “I feel everything,” is often my reply. And that is truly the best answer I give. 

How can someone feel everything all at once? How can something so good also be so hard? Where is God in all of this? Why is He letting me go through this pain?

He is RIGHT. HERE. In the middle with me. He is carrying me through this season with love and kindness, and I am letting Him. 

Many people have asked how I am handling or managing this crazy season. My response is always, “I’m floating on the grace of God.”

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV

Grace is more than forgiveness. It is more than salvation for our sins. It’s His kindness. Grace is power! It is the gift of God, with the power of God to carry us through every situation in life. Grace enables us to overcome victoriously…

How do we float on the grace of God?

Grace is power! It is the gift of God, alongside His power to carry us through every situation in life. Grace enables us to overcome victoriously. Click To Tweet

3 Tips for Floating

1. Recognize you need Him. We are weak, and that is okay. Actually, it is good. When we are weak, His strength and glory can be displayed all the more. 

2. Let Him carry you. Go at the pace that Jesus sets. His ways are not our ways, but His ways are always right! 

3. Rest in His loving arms. When we are in a season of chaos is when we need God’s grace the most. We will fail. We will disappoint others. We will not be perfect. But, we can rest in His love. His loving embrace holds us in our imperfections, sustains us in our weaknesses and empowers us to continue.

When we float on the grace of God, we live every day victorious!

The gift of God's grace can be hard to accept. Acceptance means we are flawed and need help. But God's kindness sustains us in our weaknesses. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional

The Creative Exchange

anxiety, fear, faithful, nourishment, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Nourishment: Allowing the Psalms to Penetrate and Feed Our Souls

Food is one of the greatest joys and necessities of life. Yet, it isn’t our bodies alone that need nourishment. We must feed our souls with God’s truth. 



We all need food. Food nourishes us, sustains us. Without food, we cannot live. Food is one of the greatest joys and necessities of life. Yet, it isn’t our bodies alone that need nourishment. We must feed our souls with God’s truth. When my soul is hungry or wanting, I often look to the Psalms.

My emotions may be all over the place, but His Word is true. My life may be ever-changing, but He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Even if my faith fails, He remains faithful, because He cannot deny Himself.

Below are several of my favorite Psalms. As you slowly read each one, close your eyes, think about the meaning of the words, and let God’s truth be nourishment for you today.

Let the Truth of God’s Word sink deep into your heart, renew your mind and fill your soul…

It isn't our bodies alone that need nourishment. We must feed our souls with God's truth. Click To Tweet

Food is one of the greatest joys and necessities of life. Yet, it isn't our bodies alone that need nourishment. We must feed our souls with God's truth. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional

 

God’s Faithfulness

Trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) in the Lord and do good; so shall you dwell in the land and feed surely on His faithfulness, truly you shall be fed. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass.

Psalm 37:3-5, AMPC

» «

Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.

Psalm 27:14, AMPC

» «

But the mercy and loving-kindness of the Lord are from everlasting to everlasting upon those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him, and His righteousness is to children’s children.

Psalm 103:17, AMPC

» «

Bless (affectionately, gratefully praise) the Lord, O my soul, and forget not [one of] all His benefits— Who forgives [every one of] all your iniquities, Who heals [each one of] all your diseases, Who redeems your life from the pit and corruption, Who beautifies, dignifies, and crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercy; Who satisfies your mouth [your necessity and desire at your personal age and situation] with good so that your youth, renewed, is like the eagle’s [strong, overcoming, soaring]!

Psalm 103:3-5, AMPC

Food for the Afraid

In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You, Lord, alone make me dwell in safety and confident trust.

Psalm 4:8, AMPC

» «

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation—whom shall I fear or dread? The Lord is the Refuge and Stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1, AMPC

» «

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

Psalm 91:4, NIV

Nourishment for the Wrecked

They looked to Him and were radiant; their faces shall never blush for shame or be confused. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.

Psalm 34:5-6, AMPC

» «

[What, what would have become of me] had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living!

Psalm 27:13, AMPC

» «

My heart throbs, my strength fails me; as for the light of my eyes, it also is gone from me. For in You, O Lord, do I hope; You will answer, O Lord my God.

Psalm 38:10, 15, AMPC

Food for the Wanting

For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand [anywhere else]; I would rather be a doorkeeper and stand at the threshold in the house of my God than to dwell [at ease] in the tents of wickedness.

Psalm 84:10, AMPC

» «

Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.

Psalm 2:8, NIV

» «

The secret [of the sweet, satisfying companionship] of the Lord have they who fear (revere and worship) Him, and He will show them His covenant and reveal to them its [deep, inner] meaning.

Psalm 25:14, AMPC

Jesus, thank you for this sweet reader. I pray these words will fill her to the full. Let your truth dive deep into her soul and set her free from fear, insecurity, anxiety, depression, and confusion. Fill her with the foods of peace, love, patience, and grace. Let your love dwell in her richly and may she always know she is precious! In Jesus’ Sweet Name, Amen.

Food is one of the greatest joys and necessities of life. Yet, it isn't our bodies alone that need nourishment. We must feed our souls with God's truth. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional

faith, joy, trust, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Sweetness: Tasting His Presence Through the Process

Sometimes faith is a process, or promises take a while to come true. In the place of waiting, the sweetness of the Presence of the Lord sustains us. 



One of my favorite things about fall is all the delicious smells and tastes in the air. I love a mouthwatering apple cobbler; a buttery crust, topped with warm gooey cinnamon coated apples. Or what about the rich, cool pumpkin pie. All the flavors culminate into a swirl of delight for your taste buds, like a circus in your mouth. I also love sipping on fresh, warm, apple cider. So sweet. And satisfying.

Think about your favorite dessert right now. You can stop and close your eyes to really experience the sweetness in your mind. Let the warm chocolate spill over your tongue. Let the rich, cool cream melt in your mouth, or the juicy berries explode with flavor into your cheeks. Do you have your special dessert in mind? Meditate on the sweetness for a moment. Let it permeate your senses.

Sometimes faith is a process, or promises take a while to come true. In the place of waiting, the sweetness of the Presence of the Lord sustains us. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional

The Sweetness of His Presence

What is better than even the richest dessert, is the full, rich, beautiful presence of Jesus. In His presence is the fullness of joy! It is sweet and satisfying. There is nothing like it in Heaven or on Earth.

The secret [of the sweet, satisfying companionship] of the Lord have they who fear (revere and worship) Him, and He will show them His covenant and reveal to them its [deep, inner] meaning.

Psalm 25:14, AMPC

But, what about when you don’t feel the sweetness? What about when trusting in God, drawing near to Him is painful, difficult, uncomfortable?

There are days when I feel too raw or too ashamed to come close to Jesus. There are times when I don’t understand my own heart, so I don’t want to share it with the God, who sees all. Sometimes I would rather just binge watch TV and let my brain and my heart rest.

Yet, when I choose to risk time with Him, I am never disappointed. Because Jesus isn’t waiting to catch me in a trap. He is my refuge.

O taste and see that the Lord [our God] is good! Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man who trusts and takes refuge in Him.

Psalm 34:8, AMPC

There are days we feel too raw or too ashamed to come close to Jesus. But, when we choose to risk time with Him, we will never be disappointed. Jesus isn't waiting to catch us in a trap. He is our refuge. Click To Tweet

Faith is a Process

I was struck the other day while reading the book of Exodus, by the process of faith. God appears to Moses in a burning bush (the bush is on fire, but not burning up). He tells Moses how He plans to rescue the Israelite people from slavery and that Moses will lead this rescue. God gives Moses the step by step plan for all the He is going to do, and all that Moses is responsible for (Exodus 3-4).

Then, Moses begins to question God. “But I’m not…enough.” “I can’t…succeed.” God provides answers and assurance. Moses continues to make excuses to the point that the Bible says “the anger of the Lord blazed against Moses (Exodus 4:14).” Yet, God still chose Moses to carry out His plan.

And later, in the book of Hebrews, God honors Moses for his faith in rescuing the people of Israel (Hebrews 11:27-29).

How often am I like Moses, asking God the “what about?” questions?

God is extremely gracious, patient and forgiving. He sees the full picture. He loves us through our trials, and questions, and brings us to His place of faith for us. Faith is not something man invented, it is God created.

looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:2, ASV (emphasis added)

The Process and The Sweetness

Jesus is not offended by our process. He welcomes our hearts into His throne room, whatever they look like. I am thankful for my hard times with God, and in life. I am thankful for my raw questions, and even my lack of faith at times. These things keep me coming to Jesus. The more I seek Jesus in my struggling, the more I get to taste the sweetness of His presence.

His grace never dies. His love is always enough. He is the same yesterday, today and forever, and I can trust that He’s got this. That He’s got me. In the process of bringing my whole self to Him, He grows my faith.

But even more satisfying than seeing my own faith grow, is that I get the privilege of sitting at His feet. The glory of His Presence is not just for Kings and Queens, but for the broken, the ashamed, the lost and the hungry.

You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 16:11, ESV

Dear Friend,

I invite you to come, just as you are, sit at the feet of Jesus, and taste the sweetness of His presence.

Sometimes faith is a process, or promises take a while to come true. In the place of waiting, the sweetness of the Presence of the Lord sustains us. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional

darkness, hope, rest, victory, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Held: Resting in God, Who is Present in Our Darkness

When we stand face to face with the dark and unknown, we can rest. We rest because we are held in the loving arms of our Almighty God, who has given victory over darkness. 



This summer, my family took a vacation to Kentucky. We had a wonderful time visiting a horse farm, the Ark Encounter, and Mammoth Cave. My husband and sons love exploring caves, and Mammoth Cave is one of the largest in the world.

The inside of the cave was beautiful! The rock formations, rooms, everything, was simply breathtaking. We were on a group tour and following a guide, who told us the history of the cave and other interesting facts and stories. I did my best to stay close to the guide because I didn’t want to get lost in the largest cave in America.

Yet, like, most cave tours, we came to the inner part of the cave and the guide turned out the lights, asking all of us to turn off all cell phones and flashlights, as well. All of a sudden, utter and complete blackness consumed us. I have never experienced anything as dark as in that moment.

When we stand face to face with the dark and unknown, we can rest. We are held in the loving arms of our Almighty God, who has given victory over darkness. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional

God in the Dark

I held tightly to my kids’ small hands assuring them of my presence, all the while trying not to panic in the black. I couldn’t even see something right in front of my face! My heart was pounding as I silently reminded myself that I was safe, and the darkness wouldn’t last.

How do you feel when the dark is closing in? When you can’t see your way, and you don’t know if God is there?

In a moment of utter darkness, it is easy to want to panic. When we can’t see very far ahead of us, or anything around us, when we can’t see God, it can be difficult to rest.

But in that deep, dark place, Jesus is there. He has been there since the beginning, always working in the darkness. Creation itself came out of a place of darkness and emptiness.

The earth was without form and an empty waste, and darkness was upon the face of the very great deep. The Spirit of God was moving (hovering, brooding) over the face of the waters.

Genesis 1:2, AMPC

Held in the Dark

Jesus is not afraid of or taken aback by the darkness. Nothing is unknown to Him, and even when we cannot feel it, He is there.

In the same way, I held onto my little one’s hands in the deep of the cave, in the same way, I hold them close in the middle of the night, Jesus holds us close to His heart, to assure us He is near.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Colossians 1:17, ESV

As I read this verse, I like to picture the big arms of God wrapped around me in a loving embrace. He knows me. He sees me. He knows and sees you!

I don’t always know what God has in store for me or my family. I can never really be sure what the future holds. And that scares me a little, sometimes a lot.

What I CAN be sure of is that I am following a good God, who knows all, understands all, sees all and loves me! I don’t always know where we are going, but I always know I am held. Even when I can’t feel Him, I know He is there, and I know He is good.

Jesus is not afraid of the darkness. Nothing is unknown to Him, and even when we cannot feel it, He is there. Click To Tweet

Victory in the Dark

The darkness was never meant to overwhelm us. We can have victory in the dark when we choose to trust our Guide, Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. He is always present. He never changes. He always wins!

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:4-5, ESV

A tiny seed is planted in the dark ground and grows to be a magnificent oak. Lava rumbles in the dark and unseen and erupts into a powerful volcano. And the Earth we live on came out of emptiness and formless dark. Do not fear the dark, rather, expect victory to come from it.

I can see, and that is why I can be happy, in what you call the dark, but which to me is golden. I can see a God-made world, not a man made world.

Helen Keller

When we stand face to face with the dark and unknown, we can rest. We are held in the loving arms of our Almighty God, who has given victory over darkness. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional