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The Christmas Yes

The Christmas Yes

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished. Luke 1:45

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Jesus keeps quietly, gently inviting me to follow Him into places I’ve never been. Places with people. Creative environments with artists. Even into unfamiliar business trails. He keeps asking me to say, “Yes.” “Yes,” to His request that I follow Him into a vast unknown kingdom land.

Mary’s Yes

In reflecting on the birth of Jesus, and Mary and Joseph’s part in this great event, I saw the Christmas Yes. I saw it was Mary and Joseph’s response to God that made Christmas come alive for us all.
They were waiting. Looking for the One who had been promised to come. Isaiah prophesied Jesus’ birth 700 years before He was born. Generation after generation had waited. Until all they knew was waiting. Until the day an angel came to Mary.

In that one moment, that one choice, Mary’s life was forever changed. As was ours.

As Mary said, “Yes, be it unto me according to your word,” in that minute she must have known where her yes could lead her. She must have known she could be shamed and rejected by her family and friends. Shunned by her betrothed and the community. Although the prophecies spoke of the virgin birth of the coming Messiah, who would ever believe that it could be her?

In spite of any of her doubts, Mary honored God more than all those others and said, “Yes.” From then on, this seed God planted in her was His work. He formed this child in her womb.

Joseph’s Yes

And then I thought about Joseph. About the angel that kept showing up in his dreams and giving him messages from God. I found four records of his encounters with an angel as he slept. In every case, Joseph’s response was the same: he immediately got up and obeyed the directions given. This was Joseph’s yes. Complete, immediate obedience.

The Ungiven Yes

I thought more about my own, “Yes,” to God. When He speaks to me of His plans or purposes for my life, His dream seeds. Is my response, “Yes, be it unto me according to your word?” Or when He speaks quietly, softly nudging me to make more room for Him in my life, is my response to immediately rise and do what He said?

As He comes to me planting promises of who I am in Him. Of where we will go together. And my “yes,” like Mary’s, is an abandonment of trust that opens my life to His work within me. His forming of something within me I do not recognize and cannot see until I say, “yes.” Then, in expectation, I watch Him create this work in me. I wait as He births this promise. This “yes” requires only that I believe in what He has said.

I realized I was fairly good at giving Mary’s “yes”. The one that signifies a level of trust in God. In who He is and in His power to do the work. I say, “yes,” knowing the how and when is up to Him. What I don’t do so well is Joseph’s “yes”. The “yes” that requires obedience. I say my “yes,” expecting God to do the rest. I saw that in Joseph’s “yes”, he understood there was a responsibility to God, to Mary, and to Jesus and he was committed to do whatever God said to steward these lives placed in his hands.

I found Joseph’s immediate, obedient, “yes,” so amazing. I don’t always do that. I tend to ponder and then wonder if I really heard from God. I wait, sometimes thinking perhaps I need confirmation. I may look for a Bible verse. Many times I just forget about the words because I am not sure they are real…

In my author journey, I have not seen that God’s call on my creative life requires a commitment. That there is a responsibility attached to my “yes”. That when I say, “Yes, I trust you,” I am also receiving an assignment to go and do. To follow the nudges of the Holy Spirit and act.

I was so convicted by Joseph’s, “yes.” I had to sit with God and repent for the many, many times I did not acknowledge His word to me. I prayed for empowering grace to trust and obey. Trust like Mary did. Obey like Joseph.

Trust and Obey

There’s a fullness in the lesson of Mary and Joseph’s faith in God. There was an expression of trust and an expression of obedience. Mary surrendered to God’s work within her womb. There was not one thing she could do to form the Messiah child within her body. God planted the seed of this child. She had faith in His word over her life. She had an absolute trust He would fulfill all that He said. Her only part, as far as I can see, was her “yes”. Her willingness to be what God called her “favored one.” Mother of the Messiah. Her response was one of surrender. As God chose her, she chose Him.

One “yes” in our lives is our willingness to be what God calls us, whether it’s artist, author, craftsperson, singer, poet or architect. To trust in the word the Lord has spoken to us about what’s in us. To surrender to His life within us.

Joseph’s instant obedience to the word of the Lord was a different expression of faith in God than Mary’s, but without his immediate action, the mother and child would have been in danger and could have died. It’s obvious that God knew when He chose Joseph, He had found a man whose heart was committed to God.

I am inspired and convicted by Joseph’s “yes” to God. I know I need to listen more clearly to God to understand better what is His work and what is mine. What is He birthing and what am I being asked to steward in obedience?

The Event

Another thing that struck me was the context of Mary and Joseph’s faith. After generations of waiting, He was coming. The Messiah. Their trust and obedience opened the way for the birth and protection of the son of God, Son of man, Jesus.

We sit in a similar place today. Waiting. Waiting for the Beloved Savior to return. Foretold so long ago, we have almost despaired, but He’s coming back. All that God said will come to pass. Our “yes” today, our faith and obedience, ushers in His kingdom. Advances His kingdom in us and through us. Our “yes” gives Him permission and room to fulfill His word to have a bride without spot or wrinkle. To form in us and act with us in bringing Jesus to the world in the way that He dreams. Each one of us has a Christmas Yes waiting for our response. A “yes” of trust and a “yes” of obedience.

The Blessing

In the Name of Jesus, I bless you as you trust and obey. May the seed of your “yes” be watered this day with the love that falls from heaven and brings new life to you and all God’s planted within you.

Healed as You Go

Healed as You Go

Some time ago, when I was whining about my character defects and failures, I heard Jesus say, “You’ll be healed as you go,” and I realized He didn’t want me to seek Him for solutions to fix my flaws. He wanted me to follow Him. To intently look for Him in each day. To focus on finding His face in my everyday life.

I don’t believe it’s because He’s excusing my weakness or ignoring my wounds but because He knows what’s in me that needs healing. He knows the broken places and the rooted lies that have grown deep in my soul. Things in me that I’m not even aware are there. As I come closer into His presence, the lies, the fears, and the wounds are revealed, removed, and healed.

My journey is not to become perfect but to find Jesus. The One who is unfolding my wholeness as I go. The wholeness He paid for with His pure life—with His redeeming blood. This is not an accidental journey. It is my intentional choice to follow.

My heart longs for Jesus. In my hunger, I hear a song I recognize, though I’ve never heard it before. It’s a song Jesus is singing. It’s the song of my heart echoing around me when I am with Him. I stand quietly, intently focussed on the song as I hear the longing of the singer for me. I’m the one He’s singing to. I know I have to find Him or life will not matter at all. When I locate the sound of His voice it’s an act of my will to follow Him into the unknown.

When I’m frustrated with myself for all the things I can’t seem to get right, everything from losing weight to increasing my productivity; when I’m scrambling and striving with my self-help regime, I realize He’s not as interested in my self as He is in my heart and the increase of His Spirit within my spirit. If I walk in the Spirit I won’t fulfill the lusts of the flesh…

For me, perfecting myself doesn’t serve me very well and not in any lasting way. I may change some behaviors for a time. I may look better to others but I’m still lacking inside. Still empty in the place where some lies rule. Still aching where a wound festers.

Healing in the inward parts of my heart is the Holy Spirit’s work. This deep work of revealing Jesus who is the Word. Who is the One who separates the joints from marrow. Who can divide so mysteriously, and with such precision, the things that He didn’t plant within me. He is the One who comes with healing in His wings.

Healing is the work of God. A Divine touch from the One who is truly Divine. None of my freedom, my healing, or my wholeness is dependent upon me. It is His work. He continues to speak to me to follow and to cultivate my relationship with Him, my true savior. The lover of my soul.

He tells me my work is to believe every word He speaks. Every word from Him is true. It Is truth. Not just the words that are comfortable or make sense to me. Who am I that I should filter God’s words through my understanding? But rather, as He’s taught me, I should sit with Him asking for His insight about what He’s said, seeking understanding about what He’s promised, until I see what He sees. Until the promise comes shimmering into reality, covered in faith. The substance, the evidence of His truth alive and healing in me. Until the song I’ve followed into an unfamiliar place is so loud it fills my very being and I become a part of it.

There are so many ways I condemn myself. So many things I think I should be doing better to please God and others in my life. Conduct I expect to look more Christ-like but is not. Evidence I want in my life that speaks of God’s goodness to His children but I don’t see it. And yet Jesus still says only one thing to my doubting, frustrated, impatient heart:

“Follow me, you’ll be healed as you go.”

 


Ps 119:105 NIV
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path

Hebrews 4:12 NIV
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Zephaniah 3:17 NIV
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.



Photo credit: Deposit Photos

Surrender

Surrender

Sometime ago I heard a pastor say, “Faith isn’t the product of striving it’s the result of surrender.”

I’ve been learning to surrender.

To stop striving to believe what He says is true. To surrender all my fears and doubt and to sit with Him hopeful, like a child, expecting something good.

I’ve lived most of my life waiting for the other shoe to drop. Looking over my shoulder for a club to come down. And watching closely the rug under my feet expecting it to be pulled by some dark force to make me fall.

There is rest in the storm. There is peace in chaos. There is trust. Because I know He is good, I can follow Him into the valley of the shadow of death without fear. He is with me. He is trustworthy. And in the place where the enemy’s threats rattle and echo off the rocks Jesus sets a feast for me. Feeds me with dainties of His love. Romances me with intimacy. Gazes into my eyes and I am drawn into the love in His.

I forget there’s a malevolent presence nearby because the goodness and glory are so bright. So beautiful. With the radiance of God’s glory shining on me nothing else is important. I can’t even see anything else.

I’ve been learning to surrender to trusting Jesus. Even when it’s hard. Even when I want a different path. Even when I want it to be easier than it is.

He’s teaching me how to row upstream. How to move with strength, effort, and pain against the flow that resists what I’m called to do and who I’m designed to be. Seeing God’s country up ahead and not giving up. Throwing off all yokes except His. Not entangling myself in what is not my assignment. Embracing only that which He’s shown me is mine.

There are worse things than pain. Being without Jesus, without my Heavenly Father, without the Holy Spirit’s comfort is way worse. It is unthinkable and unimaginably empty.

The Lord is my shepherd. I choose to follow. I choose to surrender to His journey for me. It matters not where I’m going as long as He is there. As long as He is leading. As long He is with me.

God’s Story of You

God’s Story of You

I believe God’s beauty fills the earth. I believe God’s beauty fills you. His fingerprint has made you unique. No one, anywhere, is like you. No one brings to earth what you do. No one brings to life what you can.

God loves variety. Thousands of species of flowers all over the earth express beauty in very different ways. Observing flowers is a celebration of the unique and beautiful. How can I answer the question, “What is the best flower?” or “Which flower is the most beautiful?” Should I even ask that question when each flower has its own lovely essence?

God’s values are different than ours. He does not compare flowers or us the way we so easily do. He does not judge us the way we judge ourselves. He values us because we are the living intention of His love. He made us. He gave each of us unique DNA, unique fingerprints, and voice waves and He has written a book for each one of us that tells a story that is ours alone. No one can live my story but me. No one can live yours but you.

God’s heart is alive with love. Full of intention to capture our hearts. What happens in our hearts is most important. Faith comes from the heart. What fills our hearts overflows and spills out of our mouths. What I speak brings life or death. To myself and to others.

I once lived in a small prairie town of 800 residents. I attended a church of 14 people. I felt somewhat noble for my obedience to God to live in such a vast, empty land and to attend such a tiny church. One day as I worshipped I heard God speak. “Do you know what a great honor it is for you to be with these people?” He asked me.
Obviously, I did not.

He continued speaking. He said, “These people have my ear.”
And I saw how, whenever they prayed, they were heard. Families from all over the nation called when they were sick and as these simple farmers petitioned God, He answered and healing came. I was humbled seeing God’s heart in a new way.

It is not how big our ministry or audience is that measures our success. Success as the world chases is not the way of Jesus. Not the way our heavenly Father measures success.
All of heaven rejoices when one single soul finds Jesus. Not when I have a thousand likes on social media or 100 sales or when I’ve impressed the critics with my skill.

I believe that there are people that no one but you can touch with your life. With your art, your craft, your writing, or music. They will resonate to the life of God that lives in you and can be expressed only by you. No one brings heaven to earth the way you do. No one else can show the part of God you have seen but you.

And just as natural environments are impacted when even one small bug or creature or plant becomes extinct so is the body of Christ impacted when you stop doing what God dreamed for you to do. No matter how simple or small you think it is. The world is less full and rich, less filled with His glory when you stop.

The enemy of God uses all manner of things to slow us down to keep us from living our story. He lies about the value of our work. The value of our lives. He points to others so we will compare our work to theirs. He separates us from one another by spreading fear that we will be seen as insignificant—and maybe that’s our greatest fear.

It is hard to untangle ourselves from the cultural ways of measuring our success and value but we must. We must live in the kingdom. Rejoicing in God’s garden. Filling our unique place in His glorious, diverse garden where He walks and delights in us. Where He’s longing to give us His ear.

He’s waiting for us to listen to and live the story He’s dreamed for each one of us. Don’t stop. You and your work are more beautiful than you know. You matter more than you can even imagine.

Sleeping in the Storm

Sleeping in the Storm

You and I are why there is creation. Why there are blue skies, ocean waves, dolphins, and giraffes. We are the reason God put His story in every living thing and in the stars and sky. You and I, formed from the elements of earth by God’s hands and brought alive by the breath of God Himself. You and I are God’s wildest dreams.

Yet everything in our lives pits itself against our understanding this one thing—the deep, abiding, never-ending love God has for us. For each one of us. The truth that our lives matter more to God than the death of His only, beloved Son. God expressed His love by giving His heart, His Son for us. We are His delight. We are who He hungers to know as dearly loved children. As His dearly loved children.

Jesus knew His Father’s love for Him and He was secure. Jesus trusted the word from His Father’s mouth and the depths of His Father’s love for Him. Recently, I’ve been seeing a picture when I pray. I see Jesus asleep in a boat in a storm. I see the disciples gripping the railing of the boat watching the storm. Greatly afraid. I see Jesus resting in peace.

And then I see the boat, the waves, and the storm as from a distance and I see underneath the boat the hand of God cradling it. Even in the storm, the Hand of Jesus’ Father holds the boat safely.

I know that God is showing me His heart of love for me. And His path of obedience as well. To have faith in Him, I have to be looking at Him, not at the storm.

I am a seeker hungry to seek God. To walk in ever-increasing faith and trust in His goodness. There will be storms, but He is big enough, good enough to get me where I’m going and, if I’m abiding in Him there are times I will be sleeping, in complete peace, while my boat bumps along in the hand of God, in the middle of a storm.

The Storm
I know I seem stuck on the storm metaphor these days but so much of what I feel is like big weather. An uncontrollable force that changes familiar landscapes into unrecognizable vistas. Winds that leave brokenness in their path. From here I sit and wait to hear from God. He does not change. It is the same day to Him whether it looks good or bad to me. He is the same provider, protector, source of all good gifts whether it is sunny or stormy in my world.

His intentions are always the same. To bless me and you. To be with us. To live with us in our world not perhaps in the way I see but big, beyond understanding. His plan for a peace that makes no sense. That lets me sleep in the boat. In the storm. Under the shadow of His wings is all and more we’ll ever need. Beauty we cannot see without Him. Life that cannot die because His life is so big it cannot be quenched and it is within us.

My understanding of Him is the understanding of a five-year-old who fights against the voice of a loving parent to play in the street or with fire. Incomplete understanding at best but dangerous and deadly at worst. Self, pride, or fear will always take me on a misdirected adventure. Away from the grand, glorious adventure God has for me with Him. To a place of beauty, peace, and joyful exploits.

Into the Storm
Hearing the storm, I didn’t think about adventures. I curled up into a pill bug ball breathing quietly until all would pass. But then I felt Jesus take my hand. He pulled me up, laughing, and we ran together. We ran into the storm not away from it. What felt prudent was not the way of God for me. Facing the storm with Jesus at my side was not an expression of bravery it was one of trust.

I knew running into the storm with Jesus was not dangerous. It was the safest place I could be.


Psalm 91: 1-2 TPT

When you sit enthroned under the shadow of Shaddai,
you are hidden in the strength of God Most High.

He’s the hope that holds me and the Stronghold to shelter me,
the only God for me, and my great confidence.


PAINTING CREDIT

‘My times are still in your hands’ ©2011 Lynda Owen-Hussey. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Lynda’s Art


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