The Joy of Giving (The Hope of Christmas Part 2)

December 12, 2016

The Joy of Giving
(The Hope of Christmas Part 2)

What is joy? Where does it come from, and how in the world do we get it?! We hear of Christmas joy and Christmas cheer, but it’s not really something we can buy in a store, wrap up in a box and stick under the tree. But it is something that’s on everyone’s Christmas wish list whether they realize it or not. And sorry folks, Santa can’t bring it…only Jesus.

Have you ever had one of those days (maybe even weeks, months, or maybe years) where you feel like the joy has been sucked out of you? Like every once of energy you have in you has been drained dry. Sometimes life knocks you down. Sometimes you just have a moment. We all have those days. Other days (some of us), are just so full of extraordinary joy on an ordinary day that we bubble over like a shaken can of soda! Bubble ooze and fling all over the place! We’ve all met those people who are just sometimes “too perky” or “just extra bubbly” (guilty as charged) especially if everyone else maybe just a tad bit grumpy! Don’t be a Scrooge or Grinch all year or at Christmas!

Sometimes we feel like we have so much time, effort, love, sacrifice, and joy to spread and share with others, other days we have nothing left but an empty tank. Have you ever been caught up in the business of being busy? Of course there’s all the day-to-day necessary tasks of life and then all the fun stuff that keeps us busy too. We (especially us productive multitasking women) too often spread ourselves too thin. Warning: Avoid burnout! There’s a simple saying I’ve remembered throughout all my years of ministry and now teaching, and it goes like this “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Meaning you have to be filled, poured into, and taken care of in order to pour into, take care of, and fill up others with love and joy! A car can’t run on an empty gas tank now can it?!

When we seek, pray, worship the One who fills us, it’s so much easier to fill up others because it’s a surplus, an abundance, and excess! Joy is one of those things that will always be more than enough! A song I learned as a little girl in Sunday School (and the kids still sing it at church today) is J-O-Y, Jesus first, yourself last, and others in between.

Jesus first. Jesus is the giver of joy. Nothing or no one comes to the Father but through Jesus. (John 14:6) Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father above. (James 1:17). The true source of joy is Jesus, it doesn’t come from any earthly thing that we think can fill our voids, that happiness we’ve searched for. No other person, no job, car, house, money, or material thing can give that kind of joy that the heart and soul need and long for.

Others second, when we put others before ourselves we are showing the greatest example yet most simple way that Jesus taught us. Love Thy Neighbor as yourself. The world is not just about you and what you need/want in this life. There are other people who need to know the love of Jesus. To give, to be a servant-hearted follower of Christ maybe the best Christmas gift you can give this year. Too much, we get wrapped up in the giving and receiving of gifts, what to buy for so and so, and what’s on his or her list, and what’s on sale here and there. We know it is better to give than receive…but we get too worked up about trying to get everyone something that we lose the purpose of giving, “the thought that counts”. I, myself am more of a sentimental person who would rather receive a small thoughtful gift packed with meaningful memories and sentimental value than an expensive gift. We don’t always have to give a physical gift to give someone, we can offer our help, or do something nice for something, give them our time, or be a listening ear when someone needs talk, to bake cookies or offer a meal, to make memories, and the best gift is to give them our prayers.

Yourself last, such an uncommon sentiment and concept is a world that is so self-centered. In fact, there’s a new book by Karen Ehman called “Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living In a Self-Centered World” (which is in the December She Matters Box by the way!) that talks about “listening for a heartdrop” and “random acts of kindness” that brighten others days and impact lives. Jesus taught and lived this, He is and was the most selfless man to walk the earth. He taught love and peace. He suffered and was persecuted. He gave the world the most sacrificial act of love when He gave up His life on the cross. We are to follow His example in putting others before our own needs and motives. John 15:13 says “No greater has no man than he (or she) that would lay down his (or her) life for his friends.” Giving truly is an easy thing to do when done in love.

So in the spirit of giving, remember this THE GIFT & THE GIVER. God the Father, was the Giver on that first Christmas. Jesus was the gift, but Jesus also became the Giver as He grew into a man-the gift of eternal life through the cross (John 3:16). There are many stories and parables throughout the New Testament (especially the four gospels) that Jesus speaks about “taking care of the least of these”, “it is better to give than receive”, and the parable of the rich young fool. It doesn’t take much effort to brighten someone’s day, something as simple as a smile or kind gesture. There are many ways to give: donate clothes, shoes, toys, or any other items to a family homeless shelter or orphan’s home, bake cookies for the children’s hospital or nursing home, give your time or skills and talents to teach others, make a card to cheer someone up. Donate to charities here at Christmastime and throughout the year. Below are some links to some great charities to give to. Tis the season y’all!

With Christmas love and cheer,

Heather

Here’s a list of  some great charities to give to!

St. Jude Children’s Research

Samaritan’s Purse

American Red Cross

Lighthouse For Life

She Matters

At The Cross: Ransomed, Resurrected, Redeemed.

At The Cross: Ransomed, Resurrected, Redeemed.

 

At the cross. Where pain and agony was on display. The cross, a from of execution and torture. A symbol of fate for criminals. Something so messy and dark, became a symbol of GRACE and LOVE. How can that be? Why? Simply because the death and resurrection of one man, a man named JESUS of Nazareth. Son of God. Son of Man. Healer and Miracle Maker. Prophet. Teacher. Friend. At the Cross, where grace and suffering meet.

 

Many years ago the world saw the darkest day in history unfold…a day we call “good” seemed to feel anything but “good”. 11 men-the disciples (minus Judas the betrayer) and many other friends and followers saw their teacher, mentor and someone they loved…arrested, wrongfully accused, interrogated, beaten, stripped, whipped, spit on, and nailed to wooden cross beams to bleed and suffocate to death…how devastating and agonizing. But darkness fell over the earth when Jesus breathed His last, the veil that separated humanity from the Holy of Holies…God dwelling in the temple had been torn in two…no longer separated from God. Reconciliation came in the form of sacrifice and ransom. Friday was dark, dreadful and full of despair…Saturday it still weighed on their hearts. Shock and grief. Who would they put their trust in now that He was gone?
Have you ever felt lost in dark despair? Like rain and clouds covered your soul?HANG ON…THERE’S A “SUNDAY” (or as I like to say “SONday”) IS COMING!

 

Death is often thought of as sad and filled with sorrow, despair and grief. Friday came. Friday went. Saturday came. Saturday went. Sunday is here. And trust me, a lot could happen in three days. Those quiet tear filled days of mourning over Jesus were what was seen by human eyes on earth. But what was going on was something far more intense…the spiritual warfare that human eyes can’t see! The enemy, Satan thought he had won when Jesus drew His final breath and cried “It is finished!” Satan thought it was done and over when they put His lifeless body in the tomb. But when He cried It is finished! He meant devil you’re finished because I’m coming for you! Shots fired the battle was hot. Jesus defeated Death, Hell and the Grave by His own death. Something that only the power of God could possibly do! Love came down and laid down its life. SONday was the day the Son rose and darkness fled and brought forth a new day, light. What death had attempted to steal had been RESURRECTED!!! Death could NOT hold Jesus down.
The story itself is miraculous. But the reason why is even more amazing…the reason is YOU. The reason is ME. The reason is all of us. Jesus died and came to life was so we can be forgiven. To live in eternity with Him once we leave this world. To have a relationship with God, the reason we live.

 

Today, are you facing a storm? Maybe you struggle with an addiction to drugs and alcohol that has you feeling bound by chains? Like your substance is the only way to cope or numb the pain. Or maybe you’re the insecure shy teenager who feels so alone and outcast? Maybe you’re the single mom struggling to do the best she can for her kids who need her love and attention but also need a roof over their head and food in their tummies. Maybe you’re the scared, pregnant, unwed mother to be who doesn’t know the first thing about pregnancy? You feel alone. Maybe you’re the wife whose husband doesn’t pay her attention or affection anymore? You feel abandoned and neglected. Maybe you’re the elderly lady who is widowed, whose kids and grand kids rarely visit? Alone. Or maybe you’re the person who feels shaming stares and judgmental looks when you step into church? You are not alone. The thing is, every heart has a story. Everyone has been bought and paid for by the sacrifice Jesus paid AT THE CROSS.

 

YOU HAVE BEEN SET FREE, but you have to take that KEY to unlock your locked chains that have kept you bound and trapped so long. The sun will always come out and The SON will always shine- through the storms and after the storms; after all He is the Light of The World. Happy Resurrection y’all!!! Easter may have been yesterday, but we have reason to celebrate EVERYDAY! Reflect on the RANSOM (He paid for you), the RESURRECTION (the power of God on display for the world to see), and REDEMPTION (the freedom you now have through JESUS CHRIST!) At the Cross, where love came down to earth and changed the world.
Have you decided to follow Jesus today?

-with grace and humility,
Your sister in Christ, Heather

 

Love: A Daily Reminder by Heather H.

What is love?

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 “Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy, love does not parade itself, it is not puffed up. Love does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in truth, bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

I want to take this time to say Happy Valentine’s Day to everybody in my wonderful & beautiful family and amazing awesome friends. To all of y’all who have a “significant other” (boyfriend or husband) I am very happy for you & wish you a wonderful day filled with love, laughter, and time together.You don’t need a special holiday to show someone you love them, do it everyday!  Don’t ever take each other for granted.

To all my single friends & family (including me) don’t let all this love talk and valentine commercialism make you hate being single or negative…it’s not that bad. We have all heard it called “SAD” (aka Singles Awareness Day). God is preparing a perfect man or just for you, they won’t be perfect, neither are you, we all have flaws its what makes us unique. When you find the right person who accepts you for who you are it will be worth the wait. So why not spend time praying for your future spouse as well. Don’t focus so much on finding the right one, but becoming the one that He created you to be. Or maybe God has called you to lifelong singleness, not everyone gets married in their life! There are many single people who have lived a full life, but that doesn’t mean you don’t give and receive love.

Back to our Scripture passage:

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 “LOVE suffers long and is kind; LOVE does not envy; LOVE does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth; bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. LOVE never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.”

Okay so here’s the thing, each time you see the word “LOVE” when reading this passage, replace it with GOD (example: God never fails) then the second time you read it, replace the word LOVE with JESUS (Jesus is long-suffering/patient…) then the third is the hardest to do because its a reality check..since we are supposed to follow Christ’s example, replace the word LOVE with YOUR name…Are you patient? Are you kind? Do you not get jealous, or become puffed up and self-seeking? Do you rejoice in the truth? Just a little awesome reminder of LOVE, becoming more like HIM.

So let’s take a closer look at some more verses that point to what true love really is:

John 3:16 “For God so LOVED the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but eternal life.” {He loved us so much that He sacrificed His beloved Son. True love is sacrifice. True love is eternal.}

1 John 3:16 “This is how we know what LOVE is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our life for our brothers and sisters.” {He loved us unto death and into eternity He still loves us! Love is something we must give away. Once again, love is sacrifice.}

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” {Before we even knew Him, while we were out being natural born sinners ignoring His love and affection for us. Even before we existed He loved us.}

1 Corinthians 16:14 “Do everything in love.” {Well if that ain’t plain and simple itself. Everything you do: all of your thoughts, words, deeds, actions…do it in love.}

1 John 4:9 “We love because He first loved us.” {Love must be given away, not selfishly gripped in our own needs and wants. It must be freely given like His unconditional love for us.}

John 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” {Jesus’ love note to you, abide in MY love He says}

1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply  because love covers a multitude of sins.” {Deep love is rooted in forgiveness. Love covers sin. It did at the cross and it does still today.}

Hebrews 13:1 “Let brotherly love continue.” {Simply put: Love others}

Don’t forget to spend time with the one who gave you life, the breath you’re breathing right now, the heart that’s beating in your chest, GOD. He loved us before we even existed. He created to love and be loved. The one who knows you better than anyone even better than you know yourself.

I’ll leave you with this: celebrate with random acts of kindness. Or better yet if you are still searching for love; look no further. Love doesn’t come in a heart shaped box, it’s at the cross. True unconditional love, came with blood, sweat and tears and the words written in red are proven love letters. Let your heart be captivated by the One who created it. Love is at its finest moment when its given away, one kind word or act of kindness can change someone’s day or even save a life. Give love away. One more thing…I LOVE YOU with the love of Christ 🙂

The Real Story of St. Valentine {Martyr} Check out the history of how we got Valentine’s Day. He was a Christian who stood up for his faith and defended marriage.

-Happy Valentine’s Day

your sister, Heather

 

 

“Grudges vs. Grace: How One Holds You Back & The Other Sets You Free” By Heather H.

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Revenge is sweet they say. When someone does us dirty the first thing we want to do is pay them back, or give ‘em a dose of their own medicine! The “Golden Rule” is one that we all know “Treat others as you want to be treated.” That one rule we are taught as kids in school, along with the “If you can’t say anything nice, be quiet.” Too often as kids we’ll pitch a full blown hissy-fit if we don’t get our way, or even as adults we fly off the handle when we get offended. Well, we are human…meaning we are flawed, imperfect, and sinful. It’s the spirit vs. flesh daily battle. Grudges vs. Grace. One of these can slowly eat away your joy, tarnishing your soul, a bitter poison that only hurts you more than the one who hurt you. One of these sets you free, lifts that unmistakeable weight off your shoulders, your heart is free to feel joy, and to live and love without fear of hurt again. If we look at others the way God sees them and really the way He sees us as well, then we experience grace in a different. It really lays on a foundation of one core element, a life changing element; a gift-FORGIVENESS. There’s an old saying that goes like this “Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Forgiveness can be tough thing to do, just like ripping off a bandaid or getting a shot in the arm. Forgiveness can be an easy thing to do when you love someone. But either way, forgiveness is necessary. Scripture itself says “For if you forgive others their trepasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trepasses, neither will your Father forgive your trepasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15 ESV). If we look past the hurt and try to figure out why someone may have acted out or hurt us? We may begin to understand each other. If we look in the mirror and see our own flaws, we can also begin to understand each other also. Dishing out anger and vengence fixes nothing. Forgiving is one thing, but forgetting is alot harder. I always say “Forget the past but not what it has taught you.” The best to do is move on and let it go (not to sound all cheesy like Elsa but hey the icy Disney Princess has got a point!) When you hold onto to unforgiveness, you build a prison cell for yourself while the guilty walks free. The hardest apology to give is to the one who thinks they did nothing wrong. However you do it, whether face to face reconciliation, a phone call, a letter, a peace offering or extending a little bit of extra kindness their way, or maybe even just simply forgiving them in your heart and moving on…forgiveness is vital. It can save your life, and theirs. Grace upon grace is what He has lavished upon us, how can we call ourselves followers of Him if we don’t extend that same grace to others on a daily basis? The bottom line, we all need grace sufficient enough for each day. The past is covered in grace. Your present is sitting in grace. Your future extends grace. So go and give a lil bit today.

In His grace,
your sister Heather

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“GO!”: A New Look at a New Year by Heather H.

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“GO!”: A New Look at a New Year

Hello 2016, Happy (belated) New Year! It’s that time of year when everyone starts reflecting back on the year they’ve had and looking towards the future. You may have had an amazing year full of cheerful and blessed moments, accomplishments, and milestones. You may have had a really tough and tumultuous year full of heartache, pain, setbacks, and maybe even tragedy. Most people have a year full of both triumph and tragedy, joy and pain…just like life. You sometimes have to taste the bitter with the sweet. Whether we like it or not, time marches on. For some time may have flown by too fast. For others it may seem as if time is crawling by so slowly. Time goes on, it doesn’t stop for anyone or anything; and as much as we would like to pause it, slow it down, rewind, or fast forward all we can do is let it play until it stops. Well, regardless of what your year has looked like in 2015 we all look to the future with hope of something better in 2016.

Let’s talk about one word that we ALL hear right about now, some of us may use this word frequently with good intentions others maybe sick of hearing the lame excuse for motivation that just falls short…you know what I’m talking about, RESOLUTIONS. That’s right “New Year’s Resolutions” those ever-so-famous little standards and marks we set for ourselves every January. The classic ones: To lose weight (for some it may be to gain a little weight; hey don’t judge!), To eat healthier and exercise more, To quit and drop bad habits or addictions, To spend more time with loved ones, Read more often or Read the Bible more often. Those are some common ones we’ve heard before. This type of year gym membership sales, cookbook and self help book sales tend to soar.

Well let’s think about the word “resolution”. According to dear ole Webster, “resolution” means “the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc. the act of resolving something. an answer or solution to something.” Now I can see where people use this word in the case of addictions or bad habits they want to break. I don’t know about you but when I hear the word “resolve” I automatically think that there’s a problem that needs solving. Well what if you don’t have a “problem” but just want to do better? The reality is there is a problem…it’s a problem we all face because we live in a fallen and imperfect world: the root problem is SIN. But that problem was “resolved” many years ago by Jesus Christ dying on the cross. If we focus on our problems they can consume us, just like we can easily let sin consume. If you’re looking for a way to tackle your “resolutions”, the first (and really only) “resolution” anyone should make is to follow Jesus. Let Him take over, confess your sins, ask for forgiveness, and let Him mend the broken pieces. No one is perfect, but Jesus is.

The next thing I want to tell you may just blown your mind: throw your resolution ideas out the window because we’re gonna talk about another word: GOALS! I personally like goals better than resolutions myself, they seem more attainable and honestly more positive. Back to ole Mr. Webster again; the word “goal” means “something that you are trying to do or achieve”. Another definition puts it this way; “the object of a person’s ambition or effort, an aim or desired result.” In one of my previous blog posts “What Drives You and Who Defines You” I discussed and elaborated on Jeremiah 29:11 says “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord; ‘plans for a hope and a future, not for destruction.” The future is something we look forward to in hope but we have no idea what it will bring. We can make all the resolutions and goals we want, but without God they fail and fall apart. Proverbs, the book of wisdom has quite a few verses that sum up this logic; “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3) and then a few verses later says “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9). We can have goals, dreams, and ambitions but if we don’t seek God first they won’t even make it off the ground. Every man, every woman, every boy and every girl has specific dreams and desires in their heart that God has put there for His specific purpose in your life! Girl, you better believe the King has big plans for His princess daughter! Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Without Him, we are nothing. With Him, anything is possible.

So look at the first two letters of “goal”: that’s right, G-O! Go. Plain and simple. Don’t ask God to guide your footsteps if you aren’t willing to move your feet! You have to make the first step after seeking Him and praying, to step out. Whatever it may be: going to the gym, grabbing a salad or fruit instead of that burger or candy bar, walking more places, start writing that book, start that blog (like I did), go back to school finish that degree, put down your addictions and habits one day at a time, travel to new places and adventures, apply for that dream job, go on a mission trip, pick up your bible and start reading, don’t be a afraid to go on a date, take the time to cherish your family and friends, whatever it is! Be spontaneous, Be courageous, Be adventurous, Be fearless, but always Be Faithful! The letters in “GO” also remind us of one very important thing: God Oriented. We must place all our desires, dreams, wants, needs, all the happiness and all the pain at His feet. Place your heart in His hands and it will be lead in the direction of your dreams. If you had a heartbreaking year, full of pain and disappointments; grieve and let it go. There’s the word GO again, it will take time. So go ahead, make your list of goals, or your “bucket list”: pray over it and take it a month at time, a week at a time, one day at a time: grace upon grace. Don’t worry because something is “new” that it can be intimidating and scary. Isaiah 43:18-19 says “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” He is doing a NEW thing! I have always said “Forget the past, but not what it has taught you.” With all this being said, tell me where is there any room for excuses? Goals. God-Oriented. Grace upon grace. Now, what are you waiting for? GO!

 

With Love, Courage, and the spirit of Adventure 😉
your sister in Christ, Heather