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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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For the Love of Donuts

The donuts are different. For the first time in my life the Sunday post-sermon donut selection has changed.
For the past twenty four years the church donut selection has always featured the exact same sugary delights. The “random assortment” ordered from the grocery store bakery is never random. It’s the same each week. There are always cream-filled, jelly-filled and coconut-topped donuts. There are always plenty of glazed and a few apple fritters. For the children, and those young at heart, there are always doughy treats featuring sprinkles and chocolate frosting, too .
But today the decorations on the donuts were different. On one particular donut pretzels adorned the chocolate-frosting while gigantic California walnuts were atop another. A few of the chocolate eclairs were drizzled with pink frosting.
Since I haven’t tasted a donut in years and haven’t had a single craving, you might wonder why I care so much about the church’s donut selection. Although it’s true that my appetite no longer desires donuts my heart still craves them because donuts have played a very special role in my life.
You see, church, donuts and I go way back, all the way back to my very first church memory. It was 1994 and I was a toddler, still small and short enough to hide behind my Mom’s flowing skirt, which is precisely what I did until the end of each service. After the sermon, pastor would give a word in benediction then dismiss the congregation into the fellowship room for a time of conversation, coffee and, of course, donuts.

And so it began, my love for donuts.

As a young child I reached for puffy glazed donuts and cinnamon twists. As a teen my taste buds were tantalized by the dense cake donuts that were covered in sweet maple frosting.
Over the years my choice of donut has changed countless times and now I don’t eat donuts at all. But the unconditional love and grace serviced at during the post-service fellowship hour hasn’t changed a bit. The compassion and care of my church family is as sweet as ever and as plentiful, too.
Although the decorations on the donuts are different the beautiful offering of the Savior’s love served and shared in that blessed fellowship room is still the same.