Prepare, Peace, Promise, Relationship – these are the stand out words from our first few days of Advent together.
And for today, God strings the words together while weaving in a new one; LAUGHTER.
Not expecting that were you? LAUGH. One of God’s hope for you is that you would laugh again.
In a world with so much hurt it is easy to wonder if God sees or even cares.
In today’s reading, Abraham and Sarah lived their lives in faith but Hope was fading. All Sarah wanted was a baby. As the story goes, the woman was around 90 years old when God told Abraham (her even older husband) she would have a baby. Her reaction? She laughed a snarky laugh.
Sarah LAUGHED at God.
People, can we appreciate that the author of life itself would allow the detail that one of his main characters in the beginning of humanity laughed at Him!?! Sarah and God had enough of a relationship that God called her out.
“Then the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say,Will I really have a child now that I am old? Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time..” – Genesis 18:13-14
By this time, She was AFRAID and then chose tooooooo… say sorry? Nope, Sarah LIED! Look up Genesis 18:15. It cracks me up.
And God kept his promise.
Do you know what Sarah named her baby boy? Isaac. Isaac means “he will laugh, he will rejoice.”
God’s timing, His appointed time, may not line up with ours. And that stings.
I have prayed for a lot of things in my life. Recently, I prayed for something big. I still don’t have the words to do the story justice. But in the meantime, here’s a picture of laughter.
Is anything to big for God? Nope. Keep praying. Keep talking to God, asking and trusting that His time must be the right time.
“The Jesus Storybook Bible” pulls you in close, gets you comfy and seems to hum the song God wants to sing just for you.
Doesn’t matter how old you are, if you have kids or not; this book, the way it retells stories like today’s “A New Beginning: Noah & The Ark” feels fresh.
This is what I mean.
Old school Noah – Noah built the ark, filled the ark with animals two by two and everyone was saved. The end.
I’m exaggerating but trying to make the point. Ready? Here comes the storybook version.
Noah’s friends laughed at him, isolated him; showing us that being faithful to God does not mean a carefree life. That’s important to know. We tend to write God off when things get hard like He’s forgotten us. But life can just be hard. Period.
Here’s the difference: This version of the story illustrates how Noah lives his life WITH God – asking Him, complaining to Him, thanking Him, doubting Him, but sticking by Him – a true relationship.
The storybook tale also presents God as a God of promise and faithfulness and partnership and love.
Noah stands by his God and God stands by his word.
If you go to the authors website, you can sign up for a reading plan through “The Storybook Bible” all the way to Christmas. Here’s the link: https://www.sallylloyd-jones.com
I’ll leave you with this excerpt. Say it out loud for yourself, for your kids, your grandkids; it is true for us all:
“No matter what, in spite of everything, God would love his children – with a Never Stopping, Never Giving up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.”
The Jesus Storybook Bible p36
If we’re taking one step at a time, I just got a little extra pep in my step from this one. Day 4! We did it!
Today we’re looking at the “Jesus Calling” Devotional. This little book has you set up day by day. So good, right?
First step is look up the day you need.
Before you start reading, imagine Jesus is the one speaking to you. That’s how the author has written it. Then look up the verses listed at the bottom of the page, open your bible and read God’s words for you.
So for example, one reading today is from Isaiah 9:6. You can always google it.
Or, if you have an actual bible, find the name Isaiah, then flip to chapter 9 and skim down to verse 6.
Let me just show you.
After I read, I like to write the verse down in all caps, sit with it a few moments, then write a thought or idea from it. You can underline in your bible. It is okie dokie.
So this verse from John, I notice Jesus offers his friends PEACE in the midst of their fear. And while they were “overjoyed,” Jesus’ message is still PEACE. Did you notice that?
Grab a notebook or a stack of Post It notes! Oh, and grab a pen too. I want to try something together.
Today is Day 1 of Advent. Advent is the season of four Sunday’s leading up to Jesus’ birth. Advent means “the arrival of a notable person.” In my faith, that notable person is Jesus. Advent is a season can feel like a build up for the senses – lights are twinkling, cider is simmering, cold is settling in, familiar tunes are playing, anxiety rising (?).
There’s anticipation in the air. Do you feel it? Maybe you don’t. Why don’t we work at building up our Faith together this year?
God tells us the best way to build up our Faith is one step at a time.
Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”
It feels like the right pace this time of year while everything else is a tornado of parties, shopping lists and family expectations – one step at a time.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet...” if you think about it, a lamp doesn’t light up a whole path; just your next step. So, one step at a time, one day at a time – that’s where DEVOTIONALS come in. Have you ever tried one?
A devotional usually offers a scripture with a brief explanation, just enough to light your next step. I went through my emails, instagram account, books around the house and put together a list of devotionals we can try. These always start with God’s word and then offer a paragraph or artwork to accompany it.
Compiling the list just proves that God will stop at nothing to get your attention. So, here’s what we do:
Read the Bible verse from the devotional
Write the verse on your paper in all caps
Read the paragraph
Write down a thought, question, idea that comes from the verse
At the end of this, we’ll have 24 different ways to “hear” God’s voice.
Day 1 comes from the Holy Bible App. Just a verse. Nothing more.
And here’s what I wrote back in April 2017 -when we were still praying for a diagnosis and the right treatment for Joseph who was 8 years old, with crossed eyes, a swollen brain, and no clear path…
I ran across something on Pinterest about the story of Zacchaeus.
I have always loved this story. But the perspective the “pin” offers is just awesome.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector who took his collecting to a personal level – not cool. Taking money from people made him the town villain. And the story points out he was very short. So, Jesus was coming to town and Zacchaeus had to see for himself.
So he ran towards the crowd of haters. Then he climbed up a tree. And Jesus walked right to that sycamore and called him by name. Makes me smile. Every time.
So, here is the pin:
LONG BEFORE ZACCHAEUS COULDN’T SEE JESUS, THE TREE WAS ALREADY PLANTED TO MEET HIS NEED.
Already planted… No coincidences. Just God.
God doesn’t force himself on you but He really just wants to meet you, all day every day, wherever you are. He wanted to meet Zacchaeus. And God thought “this guy’s gonna need a tree to see Jesus” so He planted a sycamore. Zacchaeus saw the tree, climbed it and the son of God walked up to him. I don’t know about you, but my smile just got bigger.
I feel like I can run towards a lot of things; as a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, human being. As I have been in full sprint, I’ve seen the sycamore. Sometimes I pass it. But ANY TIME I CLIMB, God is there.
We all need those trees. We all need a little help to climb sometimes.
So let me tell you this story…
A guy named Johnny Kelly wrote Joseph an email. Johnny is a student at Ohio State University & on the OSU lacrosse team. Johnny had an eye injury and suffered through Lymes. As a result, he wasn’t able to play lacrosse. The parallels of pain are striking and beautiful.
He wrote Joseph to share his story and some encouragement “it’s easy to feel angry or sad… but just know the Big Man upstairs has a plan for your life and trust that he will use it to make you a better, more caring person.” Johnny is playing again. In fact, OSU beat Maryland in overtime this weekend.
God is real. God is so good. Through that email, Johnny put Joseph on his shoulders to see Jesus, feel hope.
It is just ONE beautiful example of how intricately and intimately God sees us & loves us.
I’m not a Biblical Scholar or a God expert. Period.
Now that that’s clear, can we take a look at the burning bush story in Exodus? God is trying to get Moses’ attention. So, he lights a bush on fire. Wouldn’t have been my first attention-grabbing choice. And, I’m not God.
The burning bush is not burning up; intrigued Moses moves closer. God then says,
‘Moses, Moses! Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”
What if God is asking Moses to take off his sandals so he can stand firm and connected to the holy ground. Slide your feet out of your shoes now. Wriggle your toes a bit. Tell God thanks for where you are right this moment. This moment, wherever you are, because you invite God in – I believe (again not a theologian) but I believe you are on Holy Ground.
Looking for Joy, Hoping for Miracles – it can be exhausting and feel small minded. I hope that doesn’t come across as offensive or sacrilegious. I’m just so convinced that God is bigger than what we imagine. God is more creative and hope-giving than we give Him credit for, and that God loves us more than we can grasp… so why not realize where you are, with whom you are speaking and take off your dang shoes.
Holy doesn’t just happen for saints or in a church either. It doesn’t. I believe Holy happens in…
Random coincidences: when you bump into a friend while on a walk. And walking – WALKING – is hard for both of you today, but you are both out and both just need encouragement and are there to high five each other at just the right moment.
In the quiet: journaling at home with the most sacred of stained glass windows to look through (courtesy of the cutest 6 year old).
Nature: when the “burning bush” is a row of trees ablaze in yellow and you stop to take it in.
In God’s word: spending time to get to know His voice, learn His attention to detail, and appreciate His character.
Holy, holy NO!!! a sink full of dishes is not holy. Sorry.
A few weeks ago, I got a call-back for my mammogram. The doctor found something and wanted a second look. That’s never encouraging. So, I invited God into my freak out session so I wouldn’t drown. I went for the second mammogram. They called me back, yet again, for an ultrasound.
Sitting in that robe, waiting for the doctors results; I said out loud, “Hey God, we’re good right? No matter what happens next. We are good.”
And then this popped up on the computer screen:
That dimly lit ultrasound room of the Cancer Institute all at once felt holy. Coincidence, crazy, Alexa… I call it God.
I call it God seeing his Andrea being dramatic and scared and needing a clear reminder of Him in her life. Holy, holy, holy.
I took a deep breath and exhaled calmly knowing no matter what God would be with me. I was also smiling because MAN does God get me! To experience peace knowing a huge, ancient God is alive enough and close enough to see me and answer me (literally) felt sacred and holy. (Scans came back good.)
God starts His book with a sweet Post It note, “I am with you and will watch over you where you go.” Genesis 28:15. I have felt it.
Smack dab in the middle of the Bible, Isaiah says, “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord.. the whole earth is full of His glory!” (6:3) I have seen it.
Then there’s Jesus! Jesus is a living example of how to love, serve, grieve, celebrate WITH God the Father. I have read it.
All this and I still don’t do it right. And still, God loves me and shows up in ways to make me shake my head in awe.
Holy sounds and feels and looks rich with reverence and full of awareness. And that has everything to do with God. When you invite God in you are allowing His presence to make that moment holy. Sooooo…. what are you waiting for? What am I waiting for?
Should we take off our shoes?
Let’s invite God in and then look, listen, wait – let it be holy.
Where is that manual – The one on raising kids? Do you have one I could borrow? My baby is somehow 5’9″ and 17 years old or something. And I feel like she’s supposed to know so much more before I just let her go. This can’t be right.
Lauren is a SENIOR in HIGH SCHOOL which means COLLEGE is ELEVEN MONTHS away! The all caps are meant to convey my fear/excitement/disbelief. Did you catch that?
I have been so looking forward to this launch for her. 100%. I’ve been so confident. But my knees are buckling just a little now and my heart is being squeezed.
It’s crunch time here. I’m scrambling for all the tips, lessons, values I feel I should have already taught my girl before she goes into the world. I’m not ready.
Instead of confidence, my brain is glitching in pop-up mode flashing pictures from 2002 when it was just Lauren or 2005 when she was in the Princess stage. I can’t disable this as easily as I’d like.
On top of my mental malfunction, have you heard the Michael Bublé song “Forever Now”? It is perfect and beautiful and torturous all at the same time.
Among many lessons, parenting has taught me that holding two emotions at the same time is not only ok but maybe even necessary. In other words, it’s ok to be excited and sad at the same time about Lauren going AWAY. Maybe I can use these next few months to remind us both of that.
Funnily enough, from where I’m sitting, I can see a sign I painted years ago. The kids always bug me to tell them which arrow they are but it’s my secret to hold.
Psalm 127:3-5 says, "Children are a heritage from the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth."
Okay, okay… Scripture is doing for me what only the word of God can do; quiet the brain noise.
I painted the the sign on purpose to remind myself that my children are arrows. Arrows aren’t meant to be kept. And I, Jason, WE are the warriors. It’s our job, as parents, to pull the arrow out, carefully aiming her in the right direction, pulling back and then letting her go.
Well, now I’m crying. And I’m good with crying because they’re happy tears, proud tears, excited tears, and sad tears.
I’m a wobbly warrior who cries, doesn’t always get it right, loves fiercely and dang it I am excited to see my first arrow fly.
P.S. Lauren, if you’re reading, I’m sorry if I get crappy sometimes over these next few months. Being a mom is hard. Loving you is easy. Trust you know where to aim. Keep your eyes wide open, your heart too. Know Daddy and I are always here for you.