Category Archives: Encouragement

Christmas Countdown 2020 Day 19

One thing 2020 has revealed to me is that I had no idea how quickly the entire world could change in a relatively short time. 

I used to read prophecies about the end times and couldn’t fathom how any force could unify every single nation on the planet, but this pandemic has shown me at least one means by which we can all be affected at the same time. 

Travel, politics, ministry, community, family have been upended. It has been amazing to watch how people have adapted in such a short time to an entirely new paradigm for doing life. It has enhanced divisions and conflict. 

Truth, lies, conspiracies, suppositions, misunderstandings, misrepresentations, misconceptions, censorship of information have collided as we have turned to the internet as our source of communication. 

So when I read Paul’s words to the church in Thessalonica, I can apply them quite easily to the world that swirls around me as we journey one day closer to Christmas and one day closer to Christ’s return. 

Now brothers and sisters, we do not need to write to you about times and dates. You know very well that the day the Lord comes again will be a surprise, like a thief that comes in the night. While people are saying, “We have peace and we are safe,” they will be destroyed quickly. It is like the pains that come quickly to a woman having a baby. Those people will not escape.”

1 Thessalonians 5: 1-3

These are not comforting words, my friend. They are unsettling, but Paul offers this hope. 

But you, brothers and sisters, are not living in darkness, and so that day will not surprise you like a thief. You are all people who belong to the light and to the day, we do not belong to the night or to the darkness.

1 Thessalonians 5: 4-5

Paul calls the Church in that day, and through time eternal, to the Church today to remember who we are. We are people of light and truth. We carry within us the Hope of Christ.

The world is indeed dark and no vaccine, political outcome, stimulus package, health care system, end-to-all-our-current-woe’s fix of human thinking is going to save us permanently. There will always be a next thing as the earth continues to wear out.  

There are things that will help. God has given us tools to relieve suffering and to live generously, but we do not find our hope in the minds and efforts of men and women but in Christ alone. 

Ultimately, Christ will return and He will once and for all make things new and right. In the meantime we are to live with self-control, alert and looking for opportunities to share the Gospel. We are to encourage other believers to stay the course. 

But we belong to the day, so we should control ourselves. We should wear faith and love to protect us, and the hope of salvation should be our helmet. 

1 Thessalonians 5: 8

This is our clothing, friends. The reference reminds us of the armor of God outlined in Ephesians. 

Today, let us place our hands over our hearts and remember that God is protecting us with His faith and love Then place our hands over our heads and remember to let the confidence of our salvation protect our minds from the confusion and chaos around us. 

May the God of Peace keep you safe and secure and may you share, through your words and your actions, the Hope of His salvation in all you do until He returns <3

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Christmas Countdown 2020 Day 17

Our church threw me for a bit of a loop today. They are offering the same service this Saturday, Sunday and then again Wednesday and Christmas Eve. You can watch it online or in person, but they are encouraging online since Christmas Eve tends to be super crowded and we have this thing called a pandemic going on. 

So today a text from the office came out saying the Christmas services start in “3” days and I had a more than mild panic attack. Somehow even though we can’t all gather and there have been no school programs, church events, Christmas parties or friends meeting up for our annual gift exchange; I have still managed to feel a lot of pressure. 

One of the extra bedrooms looks like the stock room of a small store. The ping pong table and its adjacent card table are littered with wrapping paper, ribbons, price stickers and glitter. Remind me to NOT purchase gift tags with glitter…Ever. Again.

I woke last night in a panic with visions of menus running through my head and we are up to the O’s in our cards, which is great except our last name starts with R and there are a million or so of them. 

How are you doing with it all? 

In all seriousness, this has been one of the least stressful Christmas seasons since I was a child and had no responsibilities. I am having fun with you and I hope you have laughed a little, but the slower schedule has meant we have enjoyed our decorations and been able to spend the extra time actually preparing our hearts.

 I have really enjoyed meeting up here each day along with reading a lovely Advent devotion and comparing notes each day with a couple of friends. 

If Jesus had returned any of the days this month, I would have been in pretty good shape but that has not always been the case. And there were definitely moments this past month where I would have been caught slack jawed hoping I hadn’t disqualified myself due to a recent meltdown. 

Now I know you can’t earn your way into heaven, but when He returns, I don’t want to be acting like a goof ball. 

And that is the point of 1 Thessalonians. 

Paul is reminding the Church that He will return and we will have no warning. 

I can remember in various stages of my life hoping He wouldn’t return at that particular moment. Caught in a movie theater watching something that I knew was just plain wrong? Please no.

Having Him split the sky when I just hurled a great big load of foul venting out into the atmosphere? Oh the sorrow of the thought. 

What if the Trumpet sounds just as I am rehearsing for the ten millionth time how someone wronged me and planning my retort? Please spare me. 

You see living right and seeking righteousness isn’t really a burden. It is a freedom we are given. It frees us to live with a sweet hope and expectation that maybe today, maybe any moment, He will return and make all things new. 

No more tears.

No more sorrow. 

No more pain. 

Sounds worth the wait to me. 

How about you? 

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Christmas Countdown 2020 Day 2

 I am so glad you are here. 

I mean that. 

I never know who I am writing to and who will be on the other side of this screen, but I am thankful for you. I am thankful you were led to come meet with me and I am thankful you are taking the time out of a busy life to just read what’s on my heart. 

If you know me, you know I joke about having a deep love for the hermit life. I can do without large groups, noise from the outside world and small talk. But I have learned in this Covid 2020 life that I cannot do without fellowship. 

I am blessed to have married my favorite person in the world and I am thankful beyond words for him to be here during this time. I am thankful I get to see our little ones and their mommy and daddy. I am thankful for our middle one who has carefully distanced and yet made the effort to stay in touch and visit within the parameters of safety. 

She’s a hugger like me and I am sure it has been difficult but her heart is big and she has tried her best to keep us safe.

 I miss our youngest like crazy. We would have seen him sometime this fall. I am thankful for his willingness to make the trip home for his summer birthday and I look forward to the hope that he will make it home for Christmas. But I miss him. 

We have used texts and calls more, we have burned up data on What’s App and we have mastered the zoom and teleconference calls to stay connected. 

We love them and staying in touch is important to our relationships.

And that is what I see in the opening lines of 1 Thessalonians. 

Paul loved his people. 

Separated by distance and time did not diminish it. 

It is a corporate, communal love. 

Repeatedly he uses “we” and “you all.”

He sends them grace and peace. 

He knows them and they know him.

He brags on them.   

Go through the first chapter of 1 Thessalonians and circle all the times he uses “we” and “you all.” Your Bible may just say “you” but Paul is talking to all the believers in Thessalonica. So if you have some southern in you, go ahead and just read you as “y’all.”

This morning I want you to read it and think of Paul loving this group of people and reaching out to them through a letter. Look at how he prays for them and what he thinks about them. 

If Paul could remain close and build relationship through snail mail, how much more can we do so in this day of instant communication. But it wasn’t in chatting with them that this love grew and blossomed, it was in thinking about them and praying for them and being thankful for them that his heart grew more and more in love with these flesh and bone humans. 

Take a minute and think of your people.

Think of your family, each one of them by name. Think of your friends and picture their faces and their families. 

This may take a while because you will start with your small circle but God will remind you of others and as you think on all those the Lord has blessed you to love, and care about and know…your heart will be so filled with love and joy. 

You may miss them terribly. They may dance on your ever-loving last nerve…but as you apply Paul’s words of thanksgiving for each life who intersects with yours, I truly believe you will be filled to overflowing with gratitude to God for the gift of each one. 

Can you think of a better way to spend some time today than just thanking God for your people? For His people? 

I am thanking Him for YOU right now. 

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