Purposeful Faith

Category - Christmas

Dealing with Difficult People

Christmas is here. We all know it. You can’t help but look around and see all the blaring advertisements, the waiting-emails, the timely-coupons, the house-lights. At times, it all feels bombarding.

Also, with Christmas, comes get-togethers with people of all types — family members we haven’t seen for ions, cousins that are long lost, and get-togethers with people of varying opinions. Christmas can thrust us into conversations we don’t feel prepared for. . .

How do we keep things peace-full? Loving? And, uplifting?

You may encounter a complainer. You may talk with someone who 100,000% disagrees with your political outlook. Another may criticize you for something you did 10 years ago, lighting a flame under your seat.

How will you react?

Basically, no matter how you are triggered, annoyed or unsettled — every time, it comes down to: how will you react?

Our reactions are what we are responsible for. Even Jesus was tempted in the garden by a devil. Just because He may have had a momentary inclination to respond a certain way — He didn’t take the bait.

We can simply resolve, this season, to — not take the bait.
When a mean word comes, don’t take the bait.
When the assault hits, don’t take the bait.

When someone tells you what to do for the umpteenth time, don’t take the bait. Half the time, offenders don’t even realize how offensive they come off. It is not about you, but usually about some sort of inner anxiety or turmoil they haven’t yet figured out how to deal with.

Inhale. Ask God for help. Receive His peace. Wait for His words of life. Release them. Or, simply walk away until you can gather yourself.

“If you don’t know what you’re doing (you lack wisdom), pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it.” (Ja. 1:5 MSG)

This is what wisdom looks like. Wisdom doesn’t walk into situations without a plan, nor does it do what its always done, banging its head against the same tinseled window.

Wisdom stops, asks God and then moves a new way, with His life-giving answer.

I am praying for you: Father God, sometimes we don’t know what we’ll encounter, until we are right in the middle of the moment, encountering it. I am asking for grace this Christmas season — as we encounter difficult spaces and places. Help us so that we can respond with wisdom and love. Protect us with your loving hand. Lead us in all your ways. Teach us what to say in hard moments. Guide our path. Give us all your words. Thank you that you always love us. May we, habitually, remember that. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

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How To Keep Jesus Front-and-Center This Christmas

While I’m undoubtedly hesitant to admit this to you today, I’m going to: I missed the point of Thanksgiving this year. With all the travel, the family happenings, the busy rush of getting everything ready — I didn’t even think of what I was thankful for until. . . after Thanksgiving.

Then, I hastily jotted down the “10 Things I Am Thankful For” in my bible like I do every year. After, what took a few minutes, I shut the book on it.

Looking back, I feel a little guilty and convicted about my lack of thought or care around this important holiday. Things just got the better of me, I guess. . .

With all this said, I don’t want this to happen again, this Christmas. It’s easy to get caught up in things — the menus, the meals, the silverware, the decorations, the gifts, the parties, the details, the people coming over. With such little time to accomplish everything, it feels like there is no time for God and thinking about what Jesus has done.

But, I vehemently refuse, to be detoured from what matters most this time around. God, help me. . . 

This is Christmas — is Christ’s party. All this is for Him, not them.

You, like me, may have a heart to put Christ first this season. How can we do it? Here are three ideas that I am focusing on:

One: Look upon the tree.

When I look upon the Christmas tree in my house, I can be reminded to look upon Jesus. Trees lined the ground outside his barn. Shepherds most certainly passed through them. Jesus was put up on one. I can look at the tree and ponder it. Think upon how Jesus was a simple man who walked among trees, to save me.

What can you think about as you look upon your tree and ponder Jesus?

Two: Sit.

While everything demands I move a mile-a-minute, I can revolt! I can just sit, when my body says, “Do!”  I don’t have to listen to all the demands and desires, I can sit with Jesus, if only for a bit to say, “Thank you for coming into this earth to save me.”

Three: Marvel.

Driving in the car, or doing mindless tasks, I can marvel. What kind of God is this who would leave the high and luxurious places of heaven to come to this death-filled and deplorable earth? What kind of God is this who chooses to enter into my life, in humble form and kindness? What kind of gift, have I not yet tapped, in Jesus?

I am adamantly intent on receiving Jesus this season. While everyone else wouldn’t receive the King in their hotel, I do not want to have a “No Vacancy” sign on my heart. What about you?

Prayer: God, apart from you, I’ll miss you. There is so much to do, to handle, to accomplish, to wrap, to give. . . the list goes on and on. . .  I am asking you to invade my heart this season. Give me a crushing and burning desire to meet you, to connect with you and to see your heart for me, afresh. I want the best of you this Christmas. I want to honor you in all your ways. I want to thank and glorify you for coming into this world to save me. You are worthy of all my heart this season. Give me all I need to honor you rightly.  You are my best gift. I am so honored to be your daughter. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

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The Best Pause When Life Feels Frantic

Blog Post By  Angela Parlin

I love so many things about the month of December.

The memories, the gatherings, the excitement for what’s coming. Twinkle lights everywhere after dark. Remembering the story of Jesus’ birth with the angels and shepherds and a star leading souls toward a newborn King—the one who changed everything.

One of my favorite things is looking back to remember. Another favorite is looking forward. It’s the in-between that trips me up. Do you know what I mean?

I’m at that point in December—like every other year—where I feel buried by the schedule and all the many to-do’s. It’s like I have to keep running, running, running–to make this pick-up time and that deadline and those purchases and these events. None of it is too much, on its own. But add it all together, and I’m one frazzled Mom.  

Today, however, I read a passage that transformed my frantic feelings, and I wondered if you need this too. Do you need to press pause on all the things, in the middle of December, in order to behold the glory of God?   

I know a place where we can always go–not to hide from our lives but to find refuge instead.

I hope you’ll come with me. Let’s dig into the Word of God, and let Him do His beautiful thing in our hearts. Right now. Today. 

I hope you’ll spend some time reading these scriptures, and read the passages around them as well. I like to copy the words by hand, sometimes on a colored card or along the edges of my day planner…yes, I still use paper planners. 😊 You may want to read them repeatedly, even memorize them. Any time you spend focusing on the Lord will be a gift to you.

5 Places to Pause When Life Feels Frantic

There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. 1 Samuel 2:2 (NIV)

Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? Exodus 15:11

For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? 2 Samuel 22:32

I love you, Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:1-2  

I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. Isaiah 45:5-6

Angela Parlin is a wife and mom to 3 rowdy boys and 1 sweet girl. In addition to spending time with friends and family, she loves to read and write, spend days at the beach, watch romantic comedies, and organize closets. But most of all, she loves Jesus and writes to call attention to the beauty of life in Christ, even when that life collaborates with chaos. Join her at www.angelaparlin.com, So Much Beauty In All This Chaos.

The Gifts We Overlook

I scroll through my phone and stare at another Christmas party post.

Smiling faces beam back at me as I rock my sleeping babe and wish mine was wedged between them. Praying she won’t wake, I dance to my daughter’s crib and put her down as softly as possible.

Immediately, she cries. Breathing deep, I stand there a moment with a small glimmer of hope that she’ll calm.

She doesn’t.

This was my life a year ago. It was my first holiday season with a baby girl I desired for years. I remember fighting tears and thinking about the irony of it all. I’d waited months for this time and now all I wanted was sleep. I’d felt her kick in my belly and longed to see her face, and then wondered how such a tiny thing could scream with such force.

Before leaving the hospital, the nurse told us not to bring her into crowds for a month.

Continue over to Abby McDonald’s place and join us for the #RaRaLinkup!

Dwelling on the Heart of Christmas

Heart of Christmas

Christmas is freedom…

Christmas is all about a God who sees need – and approaches it.

A God who sees us as we are. Who sees us in slumped state. Who sees our tears. Who sees our pains. Who sees our agony. Who sees our missteps.  He sees our trials, troubles and temperaments. He sees our incapability to save our own selves.
Christmas is all about breakthrough.

Christmas is about a God who would go to any lengths for us.

It is about the God of all power, becoming a man of all power. He breaks the force field of our world to break the fortress of sin – around us – that keeps us from him.

Christmas is about humility.

It is about a God who is God. A God who is the great I AM. But, it is also about a God who says I AM great enough to humble myself. I AM willing to do whatever it takes to lead you to my heart. I AM with you.

Christmas is about promises.

It is about a baby who grows up to be a boy and then a man, who unveils the heart of God, who saves. He heals. He helps. He prays. He leads. He fulfills dreams. He sends us into love that casts out fear. He will not stop being faithful to us.

Christmas is about no fear.
It means that the promise born in a stable is a promise that is stable. It means that when Jesus was broken, so was condemnation. It means that when you think you can’t, the power of Jesus…yes, it can. It means that it doesn’t matter so much how you feel, but simply that Christ is faithful.

It means that you are free in Jesus and alive to the Holy Spirit. This is what Christmas is about. It means that what purpose and power  -God has sown in you, is released by him who set you free. It means go! It means get out! It means let loosed and lost in Christ Jesus for 2017!

Greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world. For even though the one in the world tries to tell you Jesus is long gone and Christmas is just another holiday, the life of Jesus is just what is needed for victorious living.

I know I don’t always live this way – victoriously. But, I am fighting to. This is why I wrote Fear Fighting. I wrote it as a prayer, as a dream and as a discovery. I wrote it to see if Jesus Christ could pull me close and teach me new courage. Guess what? He did. So powerfully, he did.

I’d love for you to join the Fear Fight with me. It will bless you beyond compare. Buy it for a small group (10+ books) and I’ll even join your group Facebook page to encourage, teach or to just bless you.

Order Fear Fighting today!

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More Reading:
Do you Need a New Perspective?

Actually Keep your New Year Resolutions

Living From A New Identity

 

How You Can Easily Miss Christmas

Parked in my car, I stared at my neighbor’s perfectly ornamented outdoor tree. I’d missed it; I missed the moment. It was there for the taking, but I drove right past it. I couldn’t see past my path – to God’s path.

Reflecting on the morning, I considered how it went. My son called out, “Mom…our neighbor liked it. She…” I screamed from the other side of the car, “Buckle up, we’ve got to get  to school, son.” At the sound of his click, I was off…

And, like I said, I missed it. The moment. He wanted to celebrate my sweet neighbor’s tree. But, the fact is, in my haste, I didn’t even notice the tree. I hurried past the display of reds and greens, of joy and peace, of excitement. But, most of all, I rushed past the little wind-chimes my son had made her a few months before.

She could have removed them off her grand display. But, she didn’t.

He wanted to let me know that she cared enough to keep them there. He wanted me to know that he was worthy to be part of her Christmas. He wanted to let me know that his heart to love and to show kindness was being celebrated where Jesus is. He was a special part of her Christmas; he loved and felt love.

He wanted to show me the meaning of Christmas.

But, I rushed on.

I saw destination and nailed it, with precision.
I saw my time sans kids, and grabbed it with strength.
I buckled up, grabbed my sunglasses, and peeled out of that driveway like a mother descending on a 3-hour vacation.

I wish I would have stopped. I am sure my son wishes I stopped too.

How often does God wish we stop?

That we stop to see His ornaments of goodness and kindness? That we stop to soak in His still small voice? That we stop to receive His oh-so-gentle prompting to call a neighbor in need, to hug a child or to observe a tree that points to the tree that made up the cross?

But, upwards and onwards we go! We make money. We get coffee. We buy presents. We speed through that yellow light. We answer that cell phone call. All the while, we miss God.

If we want to be led by the Spirit, we have to make room for Spirit. If we are so filled with the angst of progress, we will miss Him in the process.

This has happened to me. My heart is aching, because I’ve left no room. I’ve only left room to keep my heart in comfortable control. Yet, if God decides I should be 5-minutes late to something – can’t I sacrifice? Jesus gave far more than 5 minutes, he gave up his very body; He let it break and tear for me.

There is no shame. There is no condemnation, today, friends. Not for you or for me. There is just a ticket, extended to us, that invites us to go somewhere new. Every time, no matter what kind of pain in the side it feels like, it drives us to the point of joy and to the horizon of new peace.

God’s tickets to slow down and see Him always bring you to the peace that – is Him.

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Ps. 16:11

Prayer:

Please God, don’t let me brush past your workings anymore. Please God, stop me in my tracks. Awaken my heart to what you are doing in the moment. Give me eyes to see brilliance and the brilliance within others as I welcome them into my heart in a present moment. Help me rest, with you. Help me go, with you. Help me be, with you. Amen

Order my book, Fear Fighting Today!

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More Reading:
1 Clear Way to Victory When in a Losing Battle

The Silent Faith-Killer (You Likely Allow)

When You Let God Down

Failproof your Resolutions

resolutions

With Christmas down, this is the time of year we move our hearts away from awe and wonder and drive them straight into strategy and planning.

I have got to lose 10 pounds.
I am going to “kill it” at work.
No more coffee.
I will set up that savings plan starting this year.
I will be a more loving mom.
I will start eating more healthy.
I will find a new job.
I will get that graduate degree.
​I will make more friends.

We become resolute to be resolute.
We plan to make a plan.
We drive into drive.
We see our win.
We know our strategy.
We. Will. Make. It. Happen.
Nothing. Will. Stop. Us.

“Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.”  Ps. 127:1

Is the Lord building your house or are you?

“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Prov. 16:9

I can’t help but think, this is where the resolution buzzkill sinks in. Even though we game planned, strategized and attacked our resolution, the small whisper still emerges, “Is this your solution or mine? Is this your will or mine? Am I going with you or are you going out there alone?”

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Mt. 7:7

God whispers, “Are you asking me or are you deciding yourself?”

With God, we endure.
With God, we press on.
With God, we find strength.
With God, he renews hope.
With God, we find fresh encouragement.
With God, we get a helping hand.
With God, he speaks truth and humility.
With God, he refocuses us in love.
With God, he redirects our paths, as he holds our hand, so that we don’t end up falling over the cliff of failure. Instead, he grabs us and leads us where he wants us to go – and we feel okay with it. It make sense, for he is the leader. It makes sense, because sometimes he is more concerned with our spiritual than our physical.

Are your plans to go – with God – or are they with an insatiable drive to succeed, win and to thrive?

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. Prov. 16:3

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7 Verses for Relational Encouragement

Relational Encouragement

Christmas is here, but so is family tensions.
Christmas is here, but so are dysfunctional relationships.
Christmas is here, but so are old habits.
Christmas is here, but gone are people we love.
Christmas is here, but baggage of old still exists.
Christmas is here, but fears surface.

God says, “I see all that, and I can handle all that.”

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Is. 41:10

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Tim. 1:7

Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” John 14:27

“But now, this is what the Lord says…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

“Tell everyone who is discouraged, Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…” Isaiah 35:4

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1

What looks unscalable, God boosts you over.

What seems unbearable, God brings you through unbelievably.

What can’t be managed, God says let down your guard and I will guard you.

Will you throw your cares upon God’s shoulders? He is the only one that can hold the weight of them without breaking his back.

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” Psalm 55:22

sustain
transitive verb sus·tain \sə-ˈstān\

  • : to hold up the weight of (something)

As you cast it over, God gets under its crushing weight (just like he did at the cross).

The weight is no longer on you, so when you walk, talk, eat or digest other’s insults, you don’t fall. You are preserved, whole and entire.

Press in and God will press his being through you.

Cast your cares and he will care for you.

Be strong and trust – God is about ready to rescue you!

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10 Ways to Shine Christ On Christmas

Shine Christ on Christmas

Christmas.
People are laughing and hugging as they reunite.
Talking about the year past.
Unwrapping their anticipated gifts.
Listening to a story repeated for the one-millionth time.
Eating dried out turkey.
Drinking egg nog or sparkling apple cider.
Singing it’s a Holly Jolly Christmas…
while, inside, feeling anything but jolly.

Sure, they may be singing “Joy to the World,” but their true emotions are joyless.
They may give you the highlight reel of the year past, but they leave out the drama.
They may be busy with buying, cooking and wrapping, while having a world of marriage, finances or health crashing down.
They may be proclaiming “Happy Holidays,” only to be deeply grieving those they love.

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.” Mt. 1:23

God with us in the thick of pain.
God with us in the thin of finances.
God with us when we feel happy – or sad.
God with us despite how much others are.

Will our hurting family members get a chance to know “God with us”?  How he draws near to the down, dejected and devastated?

Or will they believe that facades of merry and bright are the only outfits allowed?

For others to know “God with us,” they have to see “God in us.”  

They have to see how “God in us” has worked life – through us.

This means taking a risk. It means we have to move our usual conversations past ugly Christmas sweater styles, present ratings and the words “Pass the gravy.”

Are you willing to step outside of comfortable to bow down, worship and treasure the small baby – in both word and in action – this Christmas?

Will you make known the cries that moved from a manger to a cross to change everything? 

On coming to the house, they (the 3 wise men) saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.  Mt. 2:11

Lighting up Christmas, is not about lighting up a tree. It is about lighting up our loved ones with the treasure we have in Jesus Christ. It is about lighting what truly matters.

I (Jesus) in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. Jo. 17:23

When we light Jesus, we light love. What shines is the one thing that matters most, the one thing that people need and the one thing ready to light the world.

So how do we shine Christ on Christmas?

1.  We make his purpose higher than our cause of opening gifts.
2. We are more concerned with sharing Jesus than sharing mashed potatoes.
3. We go to vulnerable places, so hurt ones know it is okay to go there too.
4. We seek to touch a person’s real need, not just their need to be entertained.
5. We seek the quiet of the Lord, so that we can enter into the mayhem of family – with peace.
6. We sit and listen, verses boast, toast and gloat over things in our own lives.
7. We look to serve and honor others above ourself.
8. We pray to discern who the Lord might direct us to.
9. We discuss the Christmas story.
10. We speak about the Savior who saves.

BONUS: We take a risk, even when the risk makes us think others won’t like us.

And those around us will get a chance to know the God who goes with us – Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6).

Shine Christ on Christmas

And, the small beginnings of Jesus’ new beginnings will shine. They will shine all-consuming love that touches our houses and hearts with true and long-lasting “merry and bright”.

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Why It’s Okay to Be Struggling

God is with you in your messy state by Katie M. Reid for Kelly Balarie's Purposeful Faith

Post By: Katie M. Reid

My friend walked through the grocery store with her eyes down and shoulders slumped. She was having a hard day and it showed.

A woman from church saw her and asked, in a seemingly patronizing way, “Are you struggling?”

My friend felt like the woman’s question, laced with pity, was suggesting that it was not Christlike to be struggling.

Listen, we all have hard days and hard seasons.

It would be a lie to answer with an, “I’m fine” during those times.

But sometimes we mask our pain because we fear:

1. The other person won’t care.
2. They won’t know what to do with our hurt.
3. They don’t seem like a safe place to share.
4. We don’t want to burden them or overshadow their happiness.

But life is plain hard sometimes and we need one another to stand up when the waves of circumstance threaten to capsize us.

Just the other day several friends and I were swapping some good news. One of our friends bravely admitted that she was struggling with bouts of sickness with her kids, but she didn’t want to rain on everyone’s parade. She definitely shared in our happiness yet, instead of saying, “I’m fine too”, she was honest with how she felt.

I was grateful for her authenticity, it actually strengthened our friendship—knowing that she wouldn’t lie or put up a front that everything was okay when it wasn’t.

Just because you are struggling to find joy does not make you a weak Christian.

Look at all the biblical greats who struggled with various things like unbelief, temptation, jealousy, fear, anger, etc.

Sure, Christ wants us to have victory and count it all joy, (see James 1:2-4) but that doesn’t mean we have to put on a Pollyanna plastic smile and pretend that everything is okay, when it’s not.

The holiday season can fill us with moments of wonder and worship yet also remind us of loss and pain.

It’s as if our senses are more acutely aware of both our blessings and brokenness this time of year.

Think of the conflicting emotions felt during that first Christmas season long ago.

I am sure that Mary experienced the loss of her reputation when the naysayers discovered that she was pregnant. Then, months later—great with child—she rode on a donkey, not in comfort but on a bumpy journey away from home.

Yet, in her struggle with pain, she was carrying the Good News, the long awaited One, who would bring lasting hope to a hurting world.

Even in the dark there is light. There is hope in the struggle, but that doesn’t minimize our pain.

I doubt that God shouted to his bond-servant, “C’mon Mary, suck it up sister. You’re swollen with the Savior yet there’s no time to complain about your pain.”

God was with her as she labored and He loved her no less in her messy state.

The Good News should cause us to rise up and celebrate but that does not mean we have to be super-human or deceitful and pretend that nothing discourages us.

The super-human Savior, both God and man, came to us in our struggling state and loved us so much that He took on more pain that we will ever experience.

Whether you are struggling or soaring this season, know that you have an empathetic Emmanuel who is with you and for you.

He doesn’t scold you in the shopping aisle, He nods with understanding as you unwrap your feelings and let Him in—even to those untidy corners of your heart.

Thank You Jesus that You love us so well. Even when we are falling apart You hold us together with Your strong arm. You are the Hope of the Ages. Help us to rest in Your embrace and to live bravely, whether we are happy or sad. Thank You that You are patient with us—not condescending. Oh how we need you, this day and for all time. Lift up our heads and may we magnify You—the One laid in manger, killed on cross and resurrected in victory. You are the best gift of all. Amen.

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Katie M. Reid Headshot by Adopting Natinos

Katie M. Reid is a tightly wound woman, of the recovering perfectionist variety, who fumbles to receive and extend grace in everyday moments. She delights in her hubby, four children (and one on the way) and their life in ministry. Through her writing, singing, speaking and photography she encourages others to find grace in the unraveling of life. Connect with Katie at katiemreid.com.