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I Have a Dream…

I was born a dreamer.

As a young girl I dreamt that one day I’d be a married mommy. I imagined four little ones and a minivan.

My dreams were so detailed that I even pictured how I’d dress my kids for Sunday morning church. The girls would be in ruffled dresses with bows in their hair. The boys would be in seersucker suits with bowties.

I dreamt in Gap Kids ads. 

Then I got older and my dreams shifted. But only slightly.

Instead of dreaming of a minivan I switched to a large SUV.

By age twenty my dreams became a bit more realistic. Sunday dresses might end up with stains before the service even started. The large SUV might have spilled milk in the car seat. Home might not be as spotless and pristine as an HGTV décor magazine.

The number of kids varied, too. Maybe there would be three adopted kids or even five? I let go of the precise number and left that detail in God’s hands. But the fundamentals of my dream never changed. Husband. Kids. Home.

I was confident that by age thirty my dream would be well underway to coming true. According to my dream timeline, I would be a wife, homeowner and mother to two before I entered my fourth decade of life.

But this year I’m going to turn twenty-nine and not one single detail of my childhood dreams have been fulfilled.

In my mid-twenties I came to the realization that the fantasies I grew up holding in my heart may not unfold the way I’d hoped. It was a tough pill to swallow. I’d spent years day dreaming about my future picture-perfect life. But the reality of my early adulthood hasn’t look anything like my picture.

A few years ago, I wrote about letting go of my dreams. It was like holding onto a bundle of balloons and, one-by-one, releasing them into the sky. The kids. The house. The husband. The adorable little family attending church together. I had to let go of my death grip on my dreams and let them float away.

But, truth be told, I’ve never let those balloons out of my sight. I’ve tried. Trust me, I’ve tried. But I keep looking up into the clouds, trying to spot my dreams dancing around in the wind. All along I’ve been hoping God will let them gently descend back into my life.

But God hasn’t fulfilled my returned dreams desires. Instead, He’s made a special delivery and sent new balloons into my life. He’s given my dreams brand new life.

The dreams God has given me are unlike any I had as a child. The dreams I had for myself appeared achievable. God’s dreams appear impossible. The dreams I formulated sounded realistic. God’s dreams sound completely intimidating.

God’s been sending me dreams so lofty I’ve been afraid to speak them out loud for fear of sounding foolish. I’ve been holding them close to my chest, too overwhelmed by their magnitude to admit they are real.

But God won’t let me stay silent any longer. He wants me to proclaim the dreams He has delivered and believe that, because are His, they will come true.

So, in obedience to God, this is my God-delivered dream:
To have a worldwide ministry that encourages people to surrender their entire lives to Christ, trust God to be their sustainer and obediently follow Him wherever He leads.

I have no idea how God plans to make that dream a reality but I do know He can do it. I am not sure how it will be accomplished but I know it won’t be accomplished by my own ability and power.

And I believe that’s exactly why God’s given this dream to me. His desire is that I be totally reliant on His power to do the impossible. He is calling me to step beyond the limits of my weakness and live by the indwelling of His limitless strength.

Declaring the dream God has given me is the first step in trusting Him to make it happen. He has not given me this dream to abandon it. He has given it to me because He is going to show up and make it a reality. God, the deliverer of the dream, will be the fulfiller of the dream.

“The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”

– 1 Thessalonians 5:24

Perhaps, one day, God will bring back my old dreams to unite with my new dreams. If so, I’ll be there with open arms, ready to receive the gift of a husband, kids and home.

But, until then, I’m going to stop scanning the sky for those old balloons and let my eyes rest on these new, glorious God-given balloons. I am going to stop shrinking back with fear and doubt. I am going to bolding grab hold of God’s dreams and begin confidently and joyfully praising Him in advance for fulfilling them.

God, I can’t but you can. What is impossible for me is entirely possible for you! I know that you have given me this great dream to bring you glory. I am standing confidently in who You are and what You are going to accomplish. Lord, Here I am, send me. Here I am, use me. Take my life and use it to make Jesus known.

Amen

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Jesus, our Warrior King

If you’re a friend of God’s, you’re automatically an enemy of satan.

Be prepared, because he is going to attack you. Members of the Lord’s army who have taken a position at the foot of Christ’s cross are in satan’s cross hairs.

Picture a bulls eye on your back. Your enemy number one.

The Bible says that we do not fight against flesh and blood but against the rulers and authorities of the unseen, dark world. (Ephesians 6:12). There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. As followers of Christ, we are in a fight and the fight is always against satan. He is out to kill, steal and destroy with weaponry of fear, confusion, disappointment, anxiety and doubt. Just to name a few.

The enemy’s aim is to annihilate our faith and confidence in Christ.

To accomplish his goal, satan twists emotions so that God’s children are deceived and tricked into believing they stand on the battle field alone. The enemy knows that if he can make us feel separated from God, he can disconnect us from Christ’s power.

But the good news is satan cannot separate us from God. He doesn’t have that power.

As Paul wrote in Romans 8, nothing on earth can separate us from the love of God because Jesus already conquered the grave and rose to life again. There is nothing that can defeat the reigning Lord our God. There is nothing that can rip us away from His overcoming life.

But, in the heat of the battle, this truth can feel far away. While being taunted by defeat and hopelessness, it becomes tempting to focus exclusively on the attacker and lose sight of the Victor. Feelings of failure descend and cloud the facts of our faith.

In order to fight with the strength and power of God we cannot trust and rely on feelings. Taking hold of Christ’s victory must be done on the basis of faith.

If you and I wait till we “feel” like the battle is already won, we will spend our entire lives feeling defeated. The enemy is a liar and he regularly hijacks our feelings, making liars out of them, too.

This is what happened to Jesus’ followers in the days immediately following His crucifixion. As Luke recounts in his gospel, as the two men were traveling on the road to Emmaus they were overcome with grief because they believed their Savior was dead.

Even though these men were told by Jesus that three days would pass before He left the grave, they didn’t understand the warning. Even after the tomb was found empty, his followers were still doubtful that their Savior would return. They hadn’t seen Jesus yet and they didn’t feel like they ever would.

As the two men traveled along, they were downcast. They felt like their Lord was gone forever. They felt like Jesus was still in the grave.

But we all know how this story ends.

Jesus came and walked with them, although they didn’t recognize that it was Him at first. They told him about their defeated feelings and He restored their hope with the facts of faith.

Using scripture and the words of the prophets, Jesus recounted everything that was predicted would come to pass regarding His life. He reminded them that what God said about the Messiah. That He would suffer before He would rise again. The events that unfolded on Calvary had to occur for the sake of salvation. This trouble was to be expected.
Jesus’s followers were restored to hope and revived with the joy of Christ’s overcoming life by returning to truth.

War-weary travelers, take heart. The truth that Jesus shared with His followers on the road to Emmaus is still true today.

Jesus is victorious.
Jesus is risen.
Jesus is the eternally ascended Lord.
Jesus is triumphant!

When we focus on the facts of our faith, our feelings of failure are dispelled. By fixing our thoughts and hearts on who is fighting for us, the enemy who is fighting against us cannot get the upper hand.

We need never feel defeated because we are never on the battlefield alone. We have the truth, the way and the life fighting for us. And He has already won.

Today, when the enemy comes to attack, return to the truth of God’s Word. Stand on the firm foundation of scripture as you sound the trumpets of triumph for Jesus Christ, your Warrior King.

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The Cure for iPhone Addiction

Smartphone addiction is no joke.

On average, smartphone users check their phones forty-seven times a day due to social media fixation and texting-obsession. Studies show that we even admit to being smartphone dependent with over forty percent of smartphone users acknowledging that they have a phone addiction.

I am one such user.

I am a smartphone addict. iPhone to be exact. My phone is as much a part of me as my right arm (not left, because I’m right handed.) Although I’ve tried to curb the addiction many times my efforts have been futile. The technicolor screen keeps calling me back. Telling myself not to look at the phone and self-imposing rules never did the trick to cure my addiction. I needed to take more drastic measures. I needed the help of gray scale.

The gray scale smartphone setting transforms the screen’s vibrant color into various shades of gray. With one click of a button your smartphone can step back in time. Think pre-1970 when new-fangled color TVs had yet to infiltrate living rooms all across America.

The addiction-combating benefits of gray scale are psychological and scientifically proven. A technicolor smartphone screen stimulates neurons and triggers the release of dopamine, one of the body’s feel-good hormones. The chemical reaction of checking a smartphone is to the brain what handing a banana is to a monkey. It is a reward, enticing the monkey (and brain) to come back for more.

Switching the smartphone screen to gray scale dramatically reduces the appeal of the neurological reward. In monkey terms, gray scale feeds the monkey only a little slice of banana instead of the whole piece of fruit. When the monkey isn’t content with such a small morsel (and who is content with just a single slice of banana?) he will seek other sources of satisfaction.

And so it is in the brain. Without the color to feed the need for neuro-stimulation, our brains will naturally seek other ways to meet the need.

Switching my iPhone to grayscale has been an addiction-kicking game changer. By changing the screen’s setting my phone checking compulsion has substantially dissipated. Without color, apps have lost their allure. The temptation to scroll, search and surf has been greatly reduced. And, as an added bonus, my desire for real books (printed in ink, on paper, without back lighting or buttons) has been naturally reawakened.

But the greatest benefit of switching to gray scale hasn’t been a change in behavior; it’s been a two-part spiritual awakening.

First, I realized that the color of this earthly world is gray. Upon reading that pronouncement you might be thinking, “No, it’s not. The world is very colorful! I can see it!” It’s true that by using our limited human vision this certainly appears true. But when we reframe our thinking to consider the reality of heaven and the unimaginable splendor that awaits in glory, this world suddenly looks awfully gray.

The colors on earth cannot compare to what God has prepared on the other side of the pearly gates. Think about it like TV in the 1960’s, before the experience of a colorful screen. No one knew what they were missing and they were content to watch and enjoy the black and white program. But once full color came along no one wanted to go back. They saw the fullness of the picture and it was far better than they had imagined the show could be! This is just a small picture of what it is like in Heaven. Our eternal home is unparalleled in glory and once we experience it, we’ll never want to go back. 

Which leads me to the second part of the revelation: the world we live in and the creation we enjoy is God’s gift to wets the appetite and entices us with glimpses of the glory that awaits.

God has designed our world to be sprinkled with sweet samplings of Heaven’s splendor, but they can’t be experienced while lost in a one-dimension smartphone world. By looking up from my iPhone and out at the world, it dawned on me that this life is like the trailer for Heaven’s movie. God is showing you and I clips of the feature film. He is given us a foretaste of what’s to come and, unlike most Hollywood movies, He isn’t even showing us the very best scenes. God is reserving the finest glory for the grand premiere – the moment we arrive in Heaven.

Paul wrote, “Now hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with endurance.” (Romans 8:24). Paul didn’t need a smartphone to know that this world is just the grayscale preview of the technicolor eternal dwelling God has prepared for His own.

We can’t see Heaven’s full glory just yet but when we put down our phones and feast our eyes on the world around us, our hearts will be quickened and hope will be renewed as we travel through this life on our way to our ultimate, final destination – our everlasting home with God in Heaven.

Find out how to turn your phone to gray scale:
https://lifehacker.com/change-your-screen-to-grayscale-to-combat-phone-addicti-1795821843

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When God gives you a promise…

It was one year ago today that I wrote down on a purple index card a personal promise God gave to me. “I will restore your appetite.”

Three hundred and sixty-five days have passed since I first received the assurance from God that one day food will taste good to my palate. It has been years since I have truly enjoyed food. Thanks to dysfunction in my gut there are more foods that upset my stomach and leave me feeling ill than there are foods I can comfortably eat. As a result, I’ve lost my appetite for almost every food. Even old favorites have lost their appeal.

I must have been praying over this very dilemma exactly a year ago because God stilled my appetite anxieties with a message of assurance that it will return. God made the delivery of this promise so clear that I put it in writing and even underlined the final word, “appetite,” then dated it and signed it, “GOD.”

Upon receiving the assurance of appetite restoration I anticipated God would quickly fulfill it. I imagined that in short order I would be out ordering food at restaurants and enjoying meals with family and friends. I put my faith in God’s vow and wholeheartedly believed that “He who promised is faithful.”

But a year has passed and my appetite is as lousy as ever. In fact, I can eat fewer foods than I could a year ago and even those aren’t very appealing.

Since God made a promise but has yet to change my condition, does this mean He never really gave me the promise in the first place? Was it actually the enemy whispering lies into my ear? Or, worse yet, could it be that God did make the promise but since has gone back on His promise? Or did He never intended to fulfill it at all?

Now is the time when the rubber of faith meets the road of real life.

If my belief in God comes with a specific time frame I don’t have true belief. God is not a genie in a bottle. He does not fulfill His promises at the snap of my finger or work according to my clock. God fulfills His plans according to a whole different standard of time all together – perfectly holy time.

Since God has yet to fulfill His promise to restore my appetite I have a choice to make. I can turn my back on Him in impatience and lament that He let me down.

Or I can boldly reaffirm my faith in God’s perfect timing and declare with confidence that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)God is rarely early and never late. Just because He has yet to fulfill His promise dose not mean He will not bring it to completion.

God is most certainly going to fulfill His promise and restore my appetite! He even has the day, hour and second planned when my taste buds will turn a corner and my gut will cry out for one of its favorite foods. God knows the very first meal I will eat on that splendid day when my appetite is renewed and reborn. It will be a miraculous moment and it is coming! I know it is because God told me it is. And God never gives a word He doesn’t have plans to fulfill. He is flawless in faithfulness and always true to His vows.

Even when God’s promise tarries, keep waiting for it with hopeful expectation. God will deliver it according to His perfect timing and, when it arrives, it will bless your socks off!

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The Purpose(s) for Detox

It’s detox time…again.

For the past nineteen months I’ve been a revolving door for detox. Lyme was just the beginning. After eradicating the borrelia and bartonella bacterium from my system the focus of my fight shifted to defeating co-infections. Among the evil host of destructive invaders were Epstein Barr, parasites, Candida and now, a trifecta of mycotoxins, mercury and mold.

By now detox should be business as usual for me. Heaven knows I’ve dealt with enough of it! Yet every time I embark on a new round of detox I end up baffled by the new set of bizarre symptoms that appear. Bumps on my head. Burning in my eyes. A nose that drips like a faucet. Sneezing. Hot flashes alternating with frigid cold flashes. Fevers. Tingling up and down my arms. Electrical shock pains in my back. Heart palpitations. And this is just a sampling. There are more I could list and some I couldn’t (thankfully, a few have been forgotten in the passage of time).

Detox would be harder to tolerate if it weren’t for the healing purpose it serves – more specifically, the healing purposes. No matter what infection is being cleared or what set of strange symptoms manifest, the detox always accomplishes two fundamental purposes that benefit me body, mind and soul.

The first purpose is physical.

The detox frees my body from the foreign infectious invader de jour. Detox is the healing road that must be travel in order to reach the desired final destination of full health. During the detox healthy cells are strengthened and fortified by immune boosting supplements while, at the same time, disease killing medicines are administered to attack the infectious foe. The result is a conflict of interests. One that wants to stay and destroy. The other that wants to cleanse and purify.

Although the battle can be brutally painful and long, by staying strong and refusing to abandon the fight, health always has the final say. The disease always goes down in the detox and healing wins the day.

Which brings me to the second and infinitely more significant purpose for the detox: the spiritual cleansing.

During detox the physical struggle is only half of the battle. The attack is internal, too. Satan uses the symptoms plaguing my body as a weapon in an attempt to destroy my confidence in God and kill my hope of healing. While enduring physical suffering the enemy capitalizes on my condition by whispering lethal lies into my fragile spirit. “God is never going to heal you. That’s not your story. His healing is for someone else. But it isn’t for you.”

At times I’ve believed the enemy. During physically ravaging rounds of detox I’ve practically given up fighting for my soul. Maybe the enemy is right, I’ve thought. Maybe I’m destined to a life of chronic illness. Maybe that is my inescapable fate.

But God never lets me remain in detox defeat. His grand for the detox, to purify and cleanse my soul, always wins the day. Through the wisdom of His Holy Word God draws me back to the truth of who He is and the perfection of His will and ways. Using true stories from Genesis to Revelation God silences the lies of the enemy and reaffirms His miraculous power to save and sustain. He takes me back to the accounts of lepers who were healed, children who were freed from demons and the barren who gave birth. Then He brings me to my knees before the cross of Calvary and fortifies my faith with the eternal victory of Jesus Christ.   

God is the Great Physician who detoxes the faith of His children, sanctifying them in body, mind and soul. His desires for us is that we be made perfect as His Son is perfect and cleansed from all unrighteousness. When we enter the presence of Jesus’ and unite our lives with His redeeming resurrection power, God goes to work detoxing our hearts from the burdens of worry, fear, and concern. He slays the lies of the enemy and fortifies our fragile souls with perfect peace and rest. By the Almighty power of God the beauty of restoration is revealed out of the ashes of detox’s devastation.

When the body, spirit and mind are under attack God offers us the looking glass of faith that transforms our battles into a glimpse of the Savior’s overcoming life. It is there, in the midst of our greatest struggles, that God most dramatically displays the greatness of His salvation and strength.

By standing on the promises of God all those who call on the Mighty name of Jesus can experience joy in affliction and hope in all circumstances (even detox circumstances) knowing that God is faithful… God is good… And He isn’t finished. 

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New Life Resolutions

“I hate new year’s resolutions,” the man said to his wife with a gravelly, sneering tone that conveyed absolute contempt for the annual tradition. In five forceful words he made his feelings known. Convincing him to change his mind would have been a waste of time – a fact his wife must have known because she didn’t even try. Silence followed the man’s statement and the conversation abruptly ended.

The exchange that unfolded between the man and his wife is a common new year’s scene. People tend to either love or hate new year’s resolutions. The pro-resolution crowd believes it is good to at least make an effort to better one’s self. The anti-resolution crowd says it’s a silly tradition especially since 80% of resolutions fail.

Resolution haters have a point. Every year like clockwork the resolution resolve that was so strong on New Year’s Day wanes by Martin Luther King’s holiday and is ancient history by Valentine’s. After a few slip ups (and who doesn’t slip up?) the resolution feels more burdensome than beneficial. The promises made get trapped in the ruts of life and rarely do they make it out before December 31st.

New Year’s resolutions have earned their bad rap. They have a horrible track record for producing lasting change which is why this year I’m promoting a whole new kind of resolution: A New Life Resolution. A promise to make a spiritual change with eternal significance.

My new life resolution for 2019 and beyond is to pursue Christ…and nothing else.

For my entire life (up until now) I have pursued Christ AND something else. Christ and education…health….a miracle healing modality…a career…a killer business idea…a calling…a livelihood….a passion….a purpose. I believed it was acceptable to seek what this world has to offer while still honoring God.

Turns out I was wrong.

Seeking the world’s offerings made me more like a frenetic squirrel than a faithful follower of Christ. Like a wild, bushy tailed animal that scurries up every tree in search of a tantalizing nutty treat, I frantically searched for purpose and usefulness in this world. I thought if I could just find the right tree bearing the treat I’d be happier, more content and fulfilled.

What I’ve discovered is that I can’t pursue the world in addition to Christ. The result is a life of dissatisfaction, confusion and distraction. Balancing two lives, one lived for God and one lived for the world, doesn’t work. God requires my full, undivided attention be given to knowing Christ and making Him known.

In order to fully obey and glorify God I must put an end to my frantic search for a place in this world. I must surrender my former life of dual quests so I can live exclusively in pursuit of Jesus – His way, His truth and His life.

As I embark on my new life resolution it is important to acknowledge that the key to success does not rest in my own power. If I bank on my own resolve I am doomed to fail as miserably as most new year’s resolutions. The only hope I have of realizing my resolution is to rest in the truth and assurance of Christ’s resurrection. All the strength I need is available at the foot of His cross and to receive it I must stay put, resisting the temptation to be the squirrel that goes scampering off after every distraction. I must continue in the way of obedience, constantly surrendering myself to Jesus and God’s will for my life.

Jesus said in Luke 9:24 that “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” With the Savior of the world as my sole pursuit in this world I have no idea what the year ahead will bring but I know who will bring it. And knowing Him is enough for me.

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Redeemed by Belief

December 2018 was a bust – well, almost.

The first twenty-three days of my December were short on Christmas spirit and high on Christmas angst. The dominating thoughts in my mind revolved around shopping and sulking. If I wasn’t on a frustrating hunt to find the perfect present for every person on my list, I was most likely in a depressive funk. My mood was more melancholy than merry. Sadly, I must admit I was more prone to crankiness than cheeriness. To those who had to share a roof with me this Christmas season, I’m sorry.

Sadly, I know I’m not alone in experiencing a depressing December. When Christmas lights come on and jolly tunes are turned up every sadness and heartache gets magnified. Smiling Santas betray the despondent, mocking them at every festive turn. “Have a holly, jolly Christmas” doesn’t ring true. “I’ll have a Blue Christmas” sounds more appropriate. For those who have an identifiable “reason” to be sad it’s easy to slip into a season of sulking come Christmastime.

And so, on December 1st, that’s precisely what I did. I entered into a twenty-three day season of sulking.

While out shopping I was hopeless, unable to find the perfect gift for the loved ones on my list. While at home I was discontent, trapped in the sadness of my not-so-perfect life. Staring me in the face was the heavy weight of grief born out of a life sidelined by sickness. Although there was much to celebrate since last Christmas – more healing, vitality, improved health – I was blind to the many healing victories. All I could see were a lifetime of dreams and plans destroyed by a decade of sickness.

But then the light of God pierced into my darkness on December 23rd by way of a simple children’s Christmas play.

At New Life Community Church, the home of my church family, a small group of children performed a short and sweet Christmas program that shared a powerful and profound message. With bed sheets for costumes and a simple Bethlehem set, the kids told the story of Jesus’ arrival into the world. Mary and Joseph entered the manger scene followed by angels who appeared to shepherds as they watched their flocks by night. After telling them the good news about the Savior’s birth the young shepherds excitedly declared their desire to travel to Bethlehem and see the promised King of Kings.

As the play came to a close the audience’s attention was drawn back to the narrator as he said, “In believing, they found the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, their Savior. And tonight, just as it was in Bethlehem so many years ago, God has chosen you to hear the good news and believe.” That one line changed the spirit in the room – or at least it changed the spirit in me.

Belief transformed my heart.

Belief in Christ, who He is and what He came to do transformed my December bust into a beautiful time of celebration. By returning to Jesus Christ and fixating on His life from the cradle to the cross, my depression lifted and quickly disappeared. In the Savior’s presence the sadness I had experienced all season long was replaced by abundant joy and overwhelming peace.

Whether it be Christmastime or the middle of July, when we approach the manger throne believing in Christ and the salvation He delivers, we will encounter His peace, comfort and joy. By seeking the Savior and entering into His presence our hearts will be renewed by redeeming love.

Come to God bearing your bust of a month. Surrender your sadness and sorrow so He can transform it. God is faithful. He will redeem and restore you. Come to the manger and God will revive you with an eternally abiding Christmas spirit.

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Christmas is a Box of Chocolates

Tucked in the basement of an old church in downtown Erie, Pennsylvania is the fellowship and dining hall used by the Upper Room, a local homeless shelter.

The windowless space is dim and the kitchen’s appliances are ancient. The long, rectangular tables have seen better days and the hard metal chairs aren’t particularly comfortable. But, on Christmas morning, there’s no place I’d rather be than that humble dining room.

For the homeless, Christmas can be one of the loneliest and most depressing days of the whole year. While families congregate and celebrate the day with delicious meals and carefully wrapped gifts the homeless go without, often spending the holiday alone. Even places they usual gather (McDonalds and soup kitchens) are usually closed, making Christmas not only one the loneliest days of the year but one of the hungriest, too.

It was this lonely, hungry thought that inspired the Christmas Morning Brunch at the Upper Room. Five years ago members from around the community began what would become an annual tradition of hosting a meal for those in need. At the morning meal guests are invited to indulge in a spread of home cooked food complete with fluffy egg casseroles, a variety of muffins, juicy Honey Baked Ham and freshly cut fruit. There is hot coffee on tap, second helpings and even the finest chocolate in all of Erie, PA – Stefanelli’s melt-aways.

Of all the delicious food and baked goods at the Christmas brunch – and there was lots – the box of Stefanelli’s chocolates  was by far the most treasured delight. The white box filled with luscious chunks of rich chocolate was purchased from a local company in town and placed conveniently by the coffee pot where everyone could grab a piece . As guests happened upon the chocolate I watched as their faces lit up. They immediately recognized Stefanelli’s candy – everyone in Erie does. It is considered a luxury and a rare treat, especially for those who often go without daily meals. So it was no surprise when everyone that passed by the box stopped in amazement before scooping up a piece – or two – of chocolatey treasure.

Watching the reception of the Stefanelli’s chocolate struck me as profound. What I witnessed was so much more than men and women being offered chocolate to freely enjoy. What I was watching turned out to be a sweet picture of how God offers us the greatest gift ever – Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. 

Like the special box of chocolates offered at the Upper Room on Christmas morning, God made Jesus accessible to all. He sent His most precious gift, His Son, into the lowliest of circumstances – a humble stable with only a manger for a bed. Although God could have delivered the Savior into a guarded palace or high, lofty estate, He didn’t. He could have kept Jesus far away for the people and out of reach but He didn’t. Instead, God delivered Jesus right into the middle of our broken world where He could shine His light of life in the darkest places and to the most desperate of people. He made Jesus approachable, knowable and conveniently within our weak and feeble reach.

God made Jesus available to all – the worst of sinners, the sickest of individuals and even the dead. When Jesus went out into the world, He said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). Jesus didn’t come for only the people who had their act together or who had a stellar pedigree. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, the hopeless and the “too far gone.” His gift of salvation was and is for anyone and everyone who will come to Him bearing broken lives, believing He is the Son of God who rescues sinners by way of the cross.

God gave Jesus in endless abundance – just like the box of chocolates.

By the end of the brunch we’d run out of a few breakfast foods. Certain casseroles were all gone and the hash-brown potatoes were no more but the box of chocolates was still half full. Somehow even though nearly every guest had indulged in the rich, meltaway chocolate the supply never ran out. There was enough for everyone and then some.

And so it is with Jesus. In Jesus Christ we have the one and only gift that will never run out and is always fully stocked. Anyone who approaches Jesus’ manger throne in search of the richest mercy and sweetest, most amazing grace will always find that the storehouse of His Salvation is full. Jesus, the Savior of the world, is abundant in boundless love, limitless grace, unfailing forgiveness and abiding peace. His goodness knows no end. There is always more than enough of Jesus to go around…and then some.

On Christmas morning it was a box of chocolates that delivered a special message: that God sent Jesus Christ, the greatest gift of all, into our broken world to offer us salvation through His sacrifice completely free of our charge. All He asks is that we come as we are from wherever we are and partake of heaven and earth’s sweetest, richest, eternally abiding gift: God’s one and only Son.  

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Worth the Wait

When you’re hungry, awaiting the arrival of dinner, the wait seems to go on forever. You look at the clock every few seconds. Time moves so slowly as your stomach growls. Even minutes can feel like hours.

When you’re waiting on your life to arrive the wait feels even longer. Every day feels like a month. Every year an eternity. You stare down the clock and even change its batteries (just to be sure). But nothing can speed up life’s arrival when you’re awaiting your whole entire world to change.

As one who has waited for years I can attest to how difficult it is to wait. It is certainly not always fun to wait nor is it always easy to wait. But I can assure you, it is always good to wait.

When we wait for our dinner the meal tastes better. We savor every bite when our belly is empty. When the nourishment has been long awaited and greatly anticipated we eat (and enjoy)it all, down to the very last crumb.

The same is true when we’re waiting on God’s promised life to arrive.

God’s promises are made sweeter while we wait. After a long awaited arrival, we savor the promises all the more and cherish them as sacred and special. Our appreciation and thankfulness deepens and our faith increases as we look ahead with a hungry heart, believing and trusting that, behind the kitchen door, God is cooking up something fabulous.

While we wait with great expectation our hope is established. The delay demands that if we are to remain loyal to our Lord and Savior then we must take God at His Word and believe when we cannot see. When we choose to put our trust in God’s perfect will and ways in the absence of visible proof faith is emboldened and unity with Christ is strengthened.

When we choose to rest in the assurance that God’s promised life is coming we can expect it to taste miraculous at first bite and sit eternally well in the soul, too. The long expected, greatly anticipated life delivered by God in HIs perfect timing, prepared by HIs flawless hand, comes sprinkled with peace in the present and gloriy to God forever.

Trust God and rest in Him while you await the arrival of your life. His promises are true. What He has planned to deliver you is going to be worth every single second of the wait.

“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?”

Romans 8:24

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How Moods Go: By Kicking

Oswald Chambers wrote, “Moods never go by praying, moods go by kicking.” And he’s right. “Gently” isn’t an adjective that can be applied to mood-removal. Moods must be eradicated by force.

Although I’ve read Chambers’ words countless times and heartily agree that what he wrote is undeniably true, I must admit that I’m often reluctant to kick my moods – especially “sick” mood.

When chronic illness gets me down and I become trapped in a dark and gloomy pit I call it “sick” mood. In an emotionally sick state I feel too low to rise and too hopeless to try. I reach the end of my rope and all I want to do – all I can think to do – is sulk. Tears are usually shed as I cry over my physical maladies and question why God has allowed this debilitating illness to plague me for so long.

Self-absorption is key to “sick” mood. Fixation on the self is at the heart of it. While trapped in a “sick” mood I am entirely consumed with my chronic illness, my pain, my suffering and my personal disappointments. My every thought revolves around me, myself and I.

The very last thing I want to do in a “sick” mood is kick myself – even if only metaphorically. I want the exact opposite of a kick. I want a hug. I want to be coddled, indulged, justified and humored. I want to be told that my feelings are understandable; that it is okay to get down in the pit; that I should lay low and feel my pain. I want to vent to God and lament my lot in life.

But “sick” mood always makes me sicker – physically, mentally and emotionally. When I give “sick” mood an inch it takes a mile and, before I know it, I’m completely paralyzed by pain and suffering. By indulging the mood I issue an open invitation to sorrow and sadness. Every negative, depressed, hopeless feeling receives a boost of discouraged energy and I get dragged deeper into the dark pit.

There is only one way out of “sick” mood: a round-house resurrection kick.

Even in the midst of pain and suffering Christ’s light and overcoming life is available to me but I can’t experience it if I’m unwilling to kick my mood. Until I reject the sadness of sickness and take hold of Christ’s resurrection power the mood won’t flee. I cannot capitulate to chronic illness and claim the joy, love, peace and hope of Jesus at the same time. One must go for the other to thrive. “Sick” mood must die for the Risen power of Christ to survive in me.

Jesus stands at the ready, willing and able to provide all the strength I need to kick “sick” mood and it can be mine the moment I surrender my will, ways and self-absorbed wallowing. The second I deny myself at the foot of the cross and claim the truth and life of the Holy Spirit “sick” mood is defeated.

When “sick” mood gets kicked abundant life is ushered in. Overcoming, spirited, energetic joy is revived. Restful, calming, comforting peace is restored. Hope makes a comeback and all is well with my soul.