Countdown to Christmas: Focus on Jesus

As Christmas approaches it can be a challenge to focus on Jesus, the real reason for celebrating. God showed His love in such an amazing way. He became a human, lived, suffered and died in our place. Miraculously He rose again and wants to live in relationship with us!

I wrote Christmas is About Jesus: An Advent Devotional to help my family focus on Jesus in a busy season, a busy culture, that is often sending conflicting messages about what we are doing, or should be doing, and why. The links below are to posts I have done in the past that can enhance use of the devotions in the book or help you focus on Jesus even if you don’t have the book.

Blessings to you and your family this Christmas season!

 

Living Each Day With My Father: Thanksgiving

Blog-2015-004-FATHER-ThanksWhile I know having a thankful heart is key to living with the Father I had a very hard time with this chapter. I often look for a warm fuzzy feeling to go with being thankful. I expect to “feel” thankful. I rarely do. I am thankful. I appreciate many things but I rarely “feel” thankful. Something I am still sorting out.

Being thankful is a choice. I choose to be thankful regardless of feelings or circumstances, or even natural disposition. I have often tended to be the Eeyore.

  • I see what’s wrong instead of right.
  • I see how far there is to go instead of how far I’ve come.
  • I see the work and get tired.

I also can see the good in people in hard things and I choose to give thanks.

I thank Him in faith for the things He has promised.

A roadblock to my thankfulness was “but”. There were challenging people and situations where I would thank God for some aspect then follow with a “but”.

I imagine that is much like the apology “I’m sorry, but…”

Even as I am writing this I see more areas where I have kept the “but”. I first realized it in a hard relationship. I repented and let go of that “but”. Now I see I still have “buts” to clear out of other areas.

I’m thankful for my husband’s job but I wish he didn’t have to work away.

I’m thankful we are building our dream shop but I wish it would go faster.

If I really believe God is good and working ALL things for my good I have no reason for anything but thanksgiving.

Practical ideas

Choose to be thankful

If I forget about trying, hoping to “feel” thankful then I can see some practical ways I am working to cultivate a grateful heart.

When I or someone around me complains I find something about that same thing to be thankful for.

“It looks like rain.”

“I’m thankful, we need the rain.”

I choose to start my time with God thanking Him for something. Even on days that don’t seem too good He is always good and I can always start there. Some days I just stay there. He is good – always. I’m thankful!

Obsess

Something that helps me be truly thankful and overflow in praise is to meditate on God’s word. Meditating is like marinating your mind, soul, and spirit in something. It’s constantly thinking about something.

Do you obsess? I often do, about what someone said, what I said, what I wish I had said. God made us to obsess about Him. Find a scripture and obsess about it. Allow it to become more and more true to you.

How about Romans 8:28?

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose. – Rom 8:28 KJV

Like I said if I really believe and focus on the fact that ALL things – delays, frustrating behavior, difficult people – are working for my good I can be really thankful. Don’t take me wrong. I am not saying bad things happening are sent by God and we are to do nothing about them. We have authority, remember? God is always speaking and can show us if there is something we can do about a bad or hard situation. While we wait and listen we can always give thanks and rejoice. (Philippians 4:4-8)

Get rid of the “buts”

Listen to your thoughts this week as you give thanks. Is there are but tagging along? Repent, confess, ask forgiveness if need be. Ask God for His perspective.

Express thanks to people, too

Developing thankfulness and the habit of expressing it in one area will increase it in all areas. God can bless us through people. We can and should thank them for blessing us.

Record and take time to remember

What has God already done for you? This can start with things that are true for every believer. Salvation. Forgiving you. Restoring you to relationship with Himself. Eternal life. Grace.

Add things specific to your story. Has He healed you? Provided special blessings? Children? Spouse? Direction? God constantly told Israel to remember. They built altars and had feasts to remember the salvation of the LORD. Jesus told us to take communion to remember.

Be thankful His faithfulness in the past reassures us of His faithfulness in the future.

I have a very simple printable you can use to frame your day if it’s helpful. As I did mine I could feel stress leaving and peace growing. I often reread it during hard times of the day.

Blue printable

Download printable in orange

Download printable in blue

Download printable in green

Living Each Day with My Father: Authority

To live each day with our Father takes recognizing we have authority and learning how to use it.

I have by no means arrived here, or on any of these topics. I am learning and sharing along the way. I feel I need to do a little “teaching” on authority, maybe because I am still figuring it out for myself. Care to join me?

Brief history of authority

Power and authority are closely connected and often used interchangeably. The definitions in the original languages include the meanings of both.

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Matthew 28:18 KJV

The word power in this verse includes the meaning “the power of authority” and “one who possesses authority” (Strong’s)

  • God gave it to Adam – Genesis 1:26-31
  • Adam forfeited it by partnering with Satan and disobeying God – Genesis 3:6, 1 Timothy 2:14
  • Satan had authority – Luke 4:6, 2 Corinthians 4:4
  • Jesus restored authority to Heaven when He was raised from the dead – Ephesians 1:20-22,
  • God gave us authority – Ephesians 1:22-23, 2:6; Matthew 28:18-20

What are we are supposed to do with this authority? What do we have authority over?

  • All things – Ephesians 1:22
  • The world – 1 John 4:4
  • Thoughts – 2 Corinthians 10:5
  • Speech – Colossians 4:6, Ephesians 4:29
  • Emotions – Colossians 3:8-14
  • Mountains – Matthew 17:20
  • Satan and his realm – James 4:7, Matthew 10:1, 12:28

I have much to learn in all these areas. I want you to be aware of them and begin to use your authority. I want to focus on our authority over ourselves, our thoughts, and our choices.

Ways of exercising authority

Blessing my day

Something I started doing recently is blessing my day. I was listening to a message by Joyce Meyer. She said something to the effect of taking authority over your day by blessing it and everything in it. Blessing is more than a saying, more than “I wish you the best.” Our words of blessing carry power and the authority for God to move in the situation we have blessed.

Pleading the blood of Jesus

Pleading the blood may sound strange. Think of a court of law. A defendant is brought before the judge and asked how they plead. They can say guilty or not guilty. Because of Jesus we can say “I plead the blood of Jesus.” Jesus sacrifice makes us righteous fully adopted children of the Most High God! That carries some major authority. Everything God made available to Jesus is available to us. We are co-heirs with Jesus.

Declare my authority

I state my authority, reminding myself and Satan daily that he has no right to me or anything concerning me. I am under the blood of Jesus. My property, finances, family, everything concerning me is under the blood. Jesus provided for it to be safe from the thief.

Over my emotions

I frequently have to take authority over my emotions. Emotions are real. They are not always true and they are even less often a good basis for decisions. I am learning to feel and understand my emotions and what caused them without letting them run my life. Notice I said learning. I still struggle and fail in moments and situations. I will keep learning. I will keep asking.

Application

Is there an area you need to exercise the authority Jesus has given you?

How will using your authority change your perspective?

What scriptures are you standing on for assurance of your authority?

How will you practically take authority over this area?

Blue printable

Write out your day with your Father.

Download printable in orange

Download printable in blue

Download printable in green

I encourage you to keep it where you can read it during your day. Some days I take a picture with my phone so I can take it with me.

Living Each Day With My Father Posts:

Introduction

Focus

Authority (You’re here)

Thanksgiving

Hope

Encouragement

Rest

Living Each Day with My Father: Focus

Where is my heart set?

What gets my attention?

I can, and do, focus on so many things. I home school my three children. Two of them will be in high school this year. I can certainly focus on the fact that I better make sure I am doing it right. We are building a building that is WAY beyond my ability. We need more of everything than we have on our own, more money, more time, more skill, more labor.

I can focus on my home that isn’t finished and is never clean enough. Really I could just leave that at never clean. It does get cleaned on occasion and it is not overall disgusting to me anyway. I’m a firm believer in dirt never hurting anyone. Anyway, I could focus on that.

I could focus on my clothes that don’t fit quite right, my body that lumps in the wrong places, my blog that too often get neglected, and my platform “they” say I have to build. Then there’s ministry and politics and relationships…The list is endless.

What you have been focused on? Include the good and the bad. What has been occupying most of your thoughts and emotional energy?

What do I want my focus to be? The short answer: God. I think of verses that say things like:

Set your hearts on things above, seek first the kingdom, Bless the Lord, rejoice, and give thanks.

So how do I change my focus?

Short answer?

Focus on something else.

I know very obvious and not very helpful. It’s true though. Right now you are focused on the words in this post. Look up at the ceiling and you are no longer focused on the words on your screen.

Changing life long thought patterns is not that easy. However it really is that simple. Each and every time you think about or focus on something you don’t want to focus on refocus on something else. Eventually you will have created the new habit of focusing on the right thing.

Some practical ideas for refocusing

  • I find scripture and what God has to say about what to focus on.
  • I refocus by reading encouraging words, quotes, scriptures.
  • I have pictures around my home that God has used to speak to me, pictures that speak to my destiny and His promises.
  • I sing. Knowing hymns and solid scriptural songs is an easy way for me to refocus.
  • Sometimes I refocus by going in a room by myself and telling Satan to leave me alone. I take authority over anything that is not of God in my home or my environment and release the opposite. If there is tension I tell it to go and release peace.
  • I like to write. It is a great way for me to process what I am experiencing. I can identify lies, patterns, and connections I miss if I don’t write. I can also record the truth God reveals so I can go back to it when I need to refocus.
  • An accountability partner can be a great help to. This doesn’t have to be intense or time-consuming. It can be as simple as letting your friends know you have a new focus and you want them to ask you how you are doing. Give them permission to respectfully point out when you miss your new focus.

My day with my Father

Since God gave me this idea I try to write out my day with Father in the morning. That sounds strange. Here’s what I mean. I want to live each day with my Father to do that I need Focus, Authority, Thanksgiving, Hope, Encouragement, and Rest. So I write a sentence, word or phrase for each word.

Some days He speaks to me:

Focus: I love you. I am working. You are enough.

Authority: Bless the day. Walk in authority.

Thanksgiving: Praise me all day.

Hope: in, Me. I am faithful & true – Always.

Encouragement: I am pleased.

Rest: I am here. Ask. Listen. Obey.

Some days it is my thoughts to Him:

Focus: You are good and bigger than any hurt.

Authority: I control my thoughts and choose prayer praise.

Thanksgiving: I thank you for Brian and my kids, for hard relationships.

Hope: God you alone are my hope.

Encouragement: With you all things are possible.

Rest: I rest in Your goodness and love!

Some days it is a declaration:

Focus: I am loved and accepted.

Authority: I have authority in Jesus name.

Thanksgiving:  I am blessed beyond measure.

Hope: God is working in and through me.

Encouragement: It will be worth it.

Rest: God is for me. Who can be against me?

Write out your day with your Father.

Blue printable

Download printable in orange

Download printable in blue

Download printable in green

I encourage you to keep it where you can read it during your day. Some days I take a picture with my phone so I can take it with me.

Living Each Day With My Father Posts:

Introduction

Focus (You’re here)

Authority

Thanksgiving

Hope

Encouragement

Rest

Living Each Day with My Father

I’ve had a lot of hard days lately. Many more than I care to admit.  Keeping my thinking in line with truth has been a major challenge.

First I feel or think something ugly.
Then I beat myself up because-
  • I know better.
  • I’ve dealt with this.
  • I didn’t think I was like that.

Then it gets really good because I can beat myself up for beating myself up.

Sound familiar?

I hope not, but I suspect for some it does. Not you? Great! Maybe reading will help you understand a friend who falls into this dreadful, downward spiraling trap.

Reaching out for help wasn’t helping. Looking through too many dirty lenses to see help or truth perhaps?

There’s confusion.
 Why am I feeling this way? Why do I keep thinking that? Why am I here again? I thought I dealt with this. I had a strategy, what was it? Why can’t I change? What am I missing?
There’s condemnation. 
You’ve been teaching people, challenging people to walk victorious and look at you! You should know better. You DO know better. Look at what a mess you are.
There’s hopelessness.
This will never change. I will never change.
Through that stack of dirty lenses and massive cloud of lies I came upon an idea I want to hang onto. Maybe you can hang on to it too.

I live each day with my Father.

I live each day with focus, authority, thanksgiving, hope, encouragement, and rest.

Identity in the Father
Focus, Authority, Thanksgiving, Hope, Encouragement, Rest
Focus:
 Where have I set my attention? my affections?
Authority:
Remember Jesus has given me all authority in His name
Thanksgiving:
Reflect and acknowledge the goodness of God, the greatness of His character
Hope:
Where is my hope? People? Things? Desired outcomes? God alone.
Encouragement:
Asking Father to speak. He is always encouraging.
Rest:
In His presence is joy, peace and rest.

No matter the circumstance remembering, choosing, to abide with the Father makes it better.

Nothing changes when I remember I am seated with Him in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). Yet everything changes when I remember.

Nothing changes in my circumstances because I draw close to Him. It doesn’t have to.

I change when I draw close to Him. I find peace. I find rest. I remember He is bigger than it all. I remember He is good, beyond my understanding, beyond my seeing. He is working, always for my good. He has called me to rest. (Matthew 11:28)

I’ll explain each of these keys and how I am learning to use them to frame my day in future posts.

I have a very simple printable you can use to frame your day if it’s helpful. As I did mine I could feel stress leaving and peace growing. I often reread it during hard times of the day.

Blue printable

Download printable in orange

Download printable in blue

Download printable in green

How do you spend the day with your Heavenly Father?

Culture of Empowerment

Create a culture of empowerment
Create a culture of empowerment
I am sharing my processing of developing a culture of empowerment instead of a culture of excellence which leads to performance.
Being raised in a culture of performance meant:
  • Trying to gain approval and recognition
  • Comparison
  • Life was unsteady
  • messing up = failure
  • Accomplishments = identity
  • Perfection
  • Life, identity was fragile
  • life and relationship were scary
  • No room for growth: This one surprised me. I am trying to be perfect would I always need to be growing? Well yes, but no. I should already know how to do and be everything. Learning is a messy process of mistakes, mess ups, read failures in the performance culture. No room for that. No room for trial and error because error meant rejection, criticism, lack of worth, attack on identity since identity comes from performance.
  • people pleasing
  • never enough
  • Learned to live anticipating people’s expectations: I have fought against setting up my life to meet people’s expectations for a long time. In some ways this is a paradox because there are so many areas where other people’s opinions don’t even enter my mind and if they do I easy dismiss them as just that, someones opinion. Then there are other areas that I now see subconsciously I have learned to anticipate someones expectation of me and try to meet that before rejection or failure could occur. Talk about people pleasing! Anyway this obviously doesn’t work because without clear communication I do not actually know anyone else’s expectations. If I am doing this automatically I am also not really determining if they are expectations I am even called to meet.
  • Trying to earn love instead of live from love.
  • No matter how well I did there was always something to improve. Even performance was failure.
  • No one was interested in me as a person, only my performance.
Living in a Culture of Empowerment means:
  • Living from love
  • Identity from love
  • Environment for growth
  • Relationships are places to be known, cared for
  • I am enough without doing anything
  • Learning is a joy
  • Life is secure, stable, peaceful
  • mistakes = learning opportunity
  • Living for God’s glory

Does any of this sound familiar?

What culture are you creating?

Eyes of Hope

image
What does today look like through eyes of hope?

Hope and be a bit slippery to hold on to. God tells us we have hope. He is always faithful never changing so there is always hope.
The eyes of hope get close to God and see things from His perapective, by faith.
Today looks bright and full of promise through the eyes of hope.

He Loves Each One

God loves each one.

It’s a truth I’ve been told. A truth I have told. A truth I repeated and taught. Not one I always believe, especially for myself.Chive Blossom

I saw this truth in a new light yesterday.
My neighbor Carol has become very dear to me over the past few years. It started with my husband plowing her driveway. He never charged her. This confused her. “Why would you do that?” He always said it was because he had a snowplow and she had a driveway that needed to be plowed. God loved her and so he loved her.Busy Bee

On one of these visits about four years ago she told him she had been diagnosed with stage 3-B breast cancer. That’s where my story with Carol starts. I went to find out how I could help. We prayed. We helped her pack and winterize her house as she decided to go to Washington and do a special diet among other alternative treatments.

Over the years my family and I helped with food preparations, cleaning, moving, and gardening. There were doctor visits and trips to the airport.Pink Columine

She lived a lifetime of adventures. Mushing the Iditarod trail with a friend. Teaching English in China.  Always studying and learning. I only got glimpses of her adventures,  they were often overshadowed and forgotten by the battle to stay alive. She and a friend were planning a summer long float trip on the Yukon river when she was diagnosed.

She had a great sense of humor. Most days she made me laugh, all the way to the end.White and Purple

She was full of paradox.

Carol was almost always cold yet one of her favorite memories and places was in the Alaskan interior with only her dog team at -40.

She didn’t want to be around people but she loved them, and as I recently learned was well loved by many.

She had issues with everything in her life being someone else’s fault. She seemed to alienate people. She didn’t trust easily. She denied the existence of God.White Poppy

She became so dear to me.

On many days of trying to help her and her not allowing me there was no reason for this love but the love of God Himself for Her. There were many days I didn’t want to go do another seemingly pointless task. God repeatedly reminded me I was serving Him, obeying Him so it didn’t matter if I thought it was pointless.

She went into hospice Thanksgiving weekend. God had been breaking down her isolation. The people serving and pouring into her were beginning to connect, to find out the others existed. Going into hospice really brought everyone together.Pink Poppies

I was astounded to see the faithful believers God had placed in her life – for her whole life. I used to think, “How has she missed it all these years?”

Now I see something else. God loved her all along. I would have told you that was true. Now I see more clearly how  it was true.Pink and Yellow Columbine

She has come to know God’s love for herself. She has finally been able to forgive and let go of bitterness that she has carried for decades. It took her weakened physical state for her to gain spiritual strength and healing. People come to see her, send her cards, and call. New friends have been made, many of whom share God’s love for her.

Carol dreamed of having a home. Through complicated details I won’t explain she started one this summer. When she went into hospice they moved her to a friend’s house. She wanted to get her house finished enough she could go home. When she accepted Jesus’s forgiveness I realized God had a home for her. He hadn’t just started on it either. He knew she would be coming home.Progress in the Garden

I guess it is a living illustration of Romans 5:8. While Carol was denying his existence He was loving her. He was sharing with her the beauty of His creation. He was surrounding her with people who loved her with His love. People  to love her and show her truth while she denied His existence for over 60 years.

I think it is His love that did not let her live in regret for wasted years. She is in heaven and knows only good and beauty. She can’t “what if?” or “if only”. She has no pain,  no sorrow. She is at peace.  I choose peace.  I will celebrate.Lady Bug Poppy

One day she was talking about her life, everything falling apart. I saw God holding out His hand catching every piece.  He was holding them to make something beautiful. At an informal service for Carol a pastor shared the verses he read to Carol just before she died.

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

John 10:27-29

King James Version
by Public Domain
emphasis mine
Another was of the beautiful aspen trees over her house being God singing over her. She enjoyed it so but could never tell it was Him.
My son had this picture for her.

Holding Shame and Guilt

He told her the message.

This is a picture I was given for you. You are in the black cloak. The black cloak is sin, unbelief, anything bad you have done and everything bad that has happened to you. The cloak blocks the beams of light, God’s love and forgiveness, from reaching your heart.
The man in white standing next to you is Jesus. He is waiting to take your cloak. Before He can take your cloak and give you His white robe of righteousness you have to ask Him to take it. He won’t ever force you to take it off. As soon as you are ready to take it off He will help you.
Removing the black cloak and putting on the white is submitting to Him without necessarily understanding it all.
She said thank you for telling me but I don’t believe that.

Now I wish I had drawn her accepting Jesus’s offer. The reality that happened the Sunday before Christmas,  her finally giving Him her guilt and shame. His glory shining in and transforming her. Transformation she felt during her last three weeks.Accepting the GiftTransformation went beyond her. Sisters who hadn’t talked in years reconnected.  A neighbor was able to minister to Carol while her own sister suffers with cancer thousands of miles away, ministering to her heart where she had felt helpless.Chocolate lily

God loves each one. Those who love Him and those who don’t.

I was so blessed to know Carol, to meet some of the people who loved her for years and for days, to love her myself.