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

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?

Countdown to Christmas: Focus on Jesus

December 1st.
The day to start counting down to the celebration of Jesus birth.
We didn’t start off so well. The book and ornaments only came in this afternoon.
Attitudes amongst the natives were far from festive this morning.

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Preparing to decorate

My daughter worked hard to begin the transformation. Maybe next year I’ll be more organized, better disciplined or whatever it is I’m lack so I can enjoy doing it with her instead of directing her while I’m busy with other things like school, making dinner, or blog posts.

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We're getting closer

I really do want to focus on Jesus.
His sacrifice.
His humility.
His love.
For me.

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We’ll read our devotion tonight.

Tomorrow I’ll ask the kids for their top Christmas wishes. I started this a few years ago when I was overwhelmed by my wish for a “perfect” Christmas. I asked what traditions were important to them, if there were any new ideas and we just focus on everyone’s top thing. If we get to more- bonus! I intended to ask this morning, but like I said, it was less than festive here…

How are you preparing to celebrate Jesus?
How is it going?

5th Week – July 2014

This week I’d like to introduce you to four Alaskan authors. They have some other things in common as well.
They are all moms.
They love Jesus and families.
Their writing blesses me.
I know them all in real life.
They share a passion to encourage moms.
So here you go.
Check them out.
You will be blessed.
Copperlight Wood
Shannon shares her faith journey at Copperlight Wood. Homeschooling, parenting, international adoption, and attachment issues stretch her to trust God more and more.  Her writing makes me laugh and cry. It stirs deep.
When life allows she sends out a newsletter with content that doesn’t post on her blog. I encourage you to sign up.
 

 

Photo: Free Resource: Become the Mom You Truly Want to Be!

Sign up here: http://bit.ly/1tlJydL

Join me, Ashley Brendle (mother of 7 amazing kids) as we'll be tackling these 3 core areas of motherhood that have transformed my life:

1. Connecting with God's presence and power during the impossibilities of motherhood
2. Accepting and receiving the provision you already have to overcome the obstacles blocking you from the mom you want to be.
3. Accessing God's wisdom and revelation for the problems you're facing right now!

With this free course, you'll get tools to move from survival mode to empowered as a thriving mom in the difficult challenge of motherhood.

Click here to get started: http://bit.ly/1tlJydL

  

Ashley is a short time Alaskan. Since she moved here just over a year ago she has become very dear to me. Last summer I joined a study she led through her book Supernatural Mothering: Where God’s Presence and Power Invade Motherhood. It was transformational.

You can read her blog, listen to her podcast at Supernatural Mothering and even sign up for a free course (link above) on partnering with Jesus in your mothering, and the rest of life really, but when you are a mom sometimes that seems to cover it.

The Masterpiece Mom PodcastAmanda and I met years ago in MOPS, an amazing ministry to mothers of preschoolers. She continued to minister with MOPS long after I moved on. Amanda writes about homeschooling, life as a mom, adoption and of course resting in the masterpiece God has made each of us to be.

I also met Anne-Renee through MOPS. She shares Amanda’s passion for moms to see themselves through God’s eyes. She is a sweet joyful soul. She’s a working, non-homeschooling mom so she brings a different perspective than the rest.

Amanda and Anne-Renee have started a podcast. My summer’s been busy so I haven’t listened to as many as I would like. They offer encouragement and remind us not to take ourselves too seriously, we’re all only human.

I hope you enjoy these mom’s and their ministries.

I know I do.

Honest! Trust Me!

He who is truthful testifies honestly, but a false witness lies. Proverbs 12:17 WEB
The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment. Proverbs 12:19 KJV

Supplies:

  • Bag of candy with a wrapper you can’t see through
  • Dirt or garbage

Colorful CandyPreparation:

  • Carefully open the bag of candy. Remove the candy and save for later.
  • Fill the bag with dirt and/or garbage and reseal.

Lesson:

Offer your child the bag of candy. If they are like my children they will be very excited.
Have them open the bag.

Garbage InsteadAsk:

How did you feel when you saw the garbage?

Was it what you expected?

Did you like that it was full of garbage instead of candy?

Help them identify feelings. This is a great time to build some emotional vocabulary. They may have felt angry, hurt, or confused.

Explain:
Getting a bag of garbage that looks like candy is like being lied to. (If you told your child it was a bag of candy clarify that you did lie because you were teaching this lesson. To avoid lying you can simply say you have something for them. With older children you could talk about how leaving out information or the intent to deceive is lying or at least dishonest. We can lie without saying a word!)

Honest! Trust Me! pic
Ask:
If I gave you another bag that looked just like this how would you feel? Even though it was just a lesson there is a good chance they wouldn’t be fully confident it was going to be candy.

Read Proverbs 12:17, 19

When we lie it hurts others. The ones getting the garbage are hurt. It also hurts ourselves. We want to be trusted. If we lie to someone they are not as likely to trust us and we will be hurt.

Did you try the lesson?
Did your children gain an understanding?
How do you teach about honesty?

Keep the Water in the Glass

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’

Matthew 22:37 NLT

But first be concerned about God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all of these things will be provided for you as well.
Matthew 6:33

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Supplies:

  • glass of water, one you can see through the side

Set up:

  • Put some water in a glass.

Lesson:

  • Why does the water stay in the glass? (Your children can offer their thoughts)
  • What happens if we tip the glass too far? The water will run out. Why? (Listen to their ideas).
  • Does the water run out because someone doesn’t like us? (No)
  • Does it stay in the glass because we are good? (No) The water stays in the glass, stays level in the glass and runs out of the glass all for the same reason. The reason is gravity, a natural law God put in place.

Explain:

Gravity always works exactly as God designed it to work. It works with all the other natural laws just as they are designed to work.
God put spiritual laws in place that always work just as He designed them to. Each one always works with the other spiritual laws just like God planned.

God loves us and set up rules so we would know how to have His spiritual laws bless us. If we want the water to stay in the cup we have to work with gravity and keep the cup upright. If we want close relationship with God we work with His spiritual laws. The most important one is to love Him most. When we love Him most He promises to take care of everything else.

EIAJ- Butterflies 2014

We started our devotion today. K colored. We went through the questions. “What are you good at? What do you like to do? What does God like to see you do?” This led to asking why God would like to see us do what you like to do, what you are good at? When we create something we enjoy it doing what we created it to do. So does our Heavenly Father.

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Butterflies, Jesus made me for good works

Stand and Pray

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual [hosts] of wickedness in the heavenly [places]. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints– Ephesians 6:12-18 NKJV

Supplies:

Puppet or stuffed animal

Set up:

Do a simple puppet show. This could be stuffed animals on the table or through a doorway. The important thing being the child can see the “puppet” but not you.

Lesson:

Perform with the puppet. You could have the puppet tell a story, ask questions, or sing a song.

When the performance is over ask your child: “How was the puppet moving and talking?”

If they know it was you ask “How do you know?” “Could you see me?” Even if they could not see you they may understand that the puppet could not move without help from someone.

Explain:

We saw the puppet, but not what was moving it. We see people and things. We do not always see spirits. God is a spirit, the angels that serve God are spirits. Satan is a spirit, too. He has angels that serve him. Spirits are always working, serving their master, God or Satan, even if we cannot see them.

Do not be afraid! God tells us we are wrestling with the rulers of darkness that we cannot see. Then He tells us to put our armor on so we can stand, even against what we cannot see.

Read Ephesians 6:12-18

God promises to always be with us. He tells us to put on our armor, stand, and pray.

Fix the Leak

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

Isa 26:3 NIV

Supplies:

  • a container with a very slow leak, perhaps poke a small hole in a paper cup
  • large container to hold water
  • towel

Set up:

Fill the leaky container with water. Set it in the large container so it can leak without making a mess for you.

Lesson:

Have your children inspect the puddle. Once they have seen the puddle dry it up with the towel. Talk about how things are better now. Meanwhile the leaky container is still leaking, making another puddle in the large container. If they do not notice point it out to them. You can repeat this process as many times as they are interested.

Explain:

Read Isaiah 26:3

God promises to give us peace.  What does that mean?

Sometimes it helps to know what something is not to better understand what it is. If the leaky container were over your bed would you like that? What if it was your job to keep cleaning up the puddle? It would not be peaceful to know the leaky container is making your bed wet or always making messes for you to clean up. When the mess is cleaned up it is more peaceful.

Read Isaiah 26:3 again

What does our verse tells us about the peace God wants to give us? It is perfect peace. Perfect peace means to take care of the problem not just the mess. Perfect peace for this situation would be to fix the leaky container or replace it. Perfect peace in our lives comes because God has taken care of the problems. Jesus died so our sins can be forgiven. Jesus defeated Satan so we are overcomers. Jesus rose again so we can live forever as a friend of God.