“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God”—John 1:12-13(NIV).
It’s a wonderful time of the year for some of us. Christmas lights and décor, yuletide songs and greetings and the smells associated with this holiday invite us to care, share and rejoice in the coming of the Christ child.
For others, this season can be difficult, a reminder of loved ones lost—both physically and spiritually. It’s a reminder of need and want, doing without and praying for help. Sometimes those prayers are answered through the benevolent hearts of those who have much.
Recently, I checked out our church’s Angel Tree. On its branches were paper angels representing children whose parents are in prison or who are in foster care. On each cut-out angel shape is information about a child in need: the gender, age and child’s request are included.
Before I wrapped the clothing for this unknown child,
I prayed over each outfit.
Browsing through the angels, my first thought was “What could I afford?” One child requested an electronic tablet. Not on my budget. Another wanted a pair of Nikes. Also, not on my budget. Yet another child wanted a bicycle. Not something I could afford.
“Who is like you among the gods, O LORD? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders?”—Exodus 15:11 (NASB).
Twinkling lights filled the dusky evening skies. Filled with excitement, I exclaimed, “Fireflies,” to the friend on the other end of the phone line. While many might take the sight for granted, I’d not seen fireflies in such large numbers in many years—at least more than a decade.
I was awestruck by their beauty as they flitted around my backyard. As the daylight continued to wane, the intensity of their flashes increased.
“Feeling awe may be the secret to health and happiness.”
After my exclamation of excitement, my friend replied, “Yes, they seem to be more plentiful here at the lake.”
Growing up in Louisiana, my sister and I would capture the insects, also known as lightning bugs, and place them in jars. After punching holes in the lids of the Mason jars, we’d set them on our bedroom windowsill and watch their tail lights flash on and off as we drifted off to sleep.
Almost 50 years later, I find myself, once again, in awe of these florescent insects. I wanted to grab a jar and recapture my childhood memories. I thought, “When was the last time I’d been impressed by such simple, but elegant beauty.”
“Now let me remind you, brothers, of what the Gospel really is, for it has not changed—it is the same Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then and still do now, for your faith is squarely built upon this wonderful message; and it is this Good News that saves you if you still firmly believe it, unless of course you never really believed it in the first place”—1 Corinthians 15:1-2(TLB).
Tired of the negative news? Me too. You can’t watch television, read a newspaper or peruse social media without being bombarded with bad news. Depressing news. Sad news. News that leaves us wondering why and how our world has become so dark.
Then, good news happens. A story on television, a newspaper article or a post on social media reminds us that there is still light in the world, a light that reflects the goodness still alive and well bringing hope to our weary souls and our heavy hearts.
Trust God where you cannot see Him.
At the heart of the gospel message is hope, hope of better days, a better future and a better life awaiting us once we leave this fallen world. Our hope is in Jesus Christ, not man. That is, if you ever believed it in the first place.
Even if we have believed and placed our hope in Him, our steps falter when we become weary and want to quit because we’re overwhelmed with responsibilities. We take on too much. We’re too busy. We don’t have time to stop and listen for that still, small voice reassuring us, guiding us, speaking to our spirits and inviting us to take refuge in His arms.
In the past, I led an active lifestyle, running and exercising to stay fit. Next month, I’m facing knee replacement surgery.
I can’t experience the thrill of a runner’s high anymore. When my running days were over, I was forced to race walk. Now, I walk with a sturdy stick to help me navigate through my neighborhood. Osteoarthritis has set in because of the breakdown of joint cartilage, limiting my movements and causing pain.
When you’re used to being physically active and can no longer enjoy those things you have in the past, you have to adapt. There are days when I climb stiffly out of bed. I find the aging of my temporal body hard to accept.
After all, age is just a number.
One recent morning, I felt sorry for myself, silently lamenting my limitations. Then, I opened the shades covering the back door to my deck where I spied four squirrels chasing each other on the railing. Watching their playful antics, I was filled with joy. After a good laugh, I realized how blessed I am.
The three of us clasped hands and bowed our heads. We were standing in the middle of a discount department store aisle, praying for an employee who was battling brain cancer. Covering the lower half of her face was a protective mask to ward off the threat of germs.
My friend, Sonya, knew the employee and introduced us. As the woman’s story unfolded, I learned it wasn’t her first battle with cancer. Her fighting spirit drew me in as did her positive attitude.
The best growth comes through persevering through trials.
As we continued shopping, we struck up a conversation with another store employee who had beat cancer. She shared her amazing story of healing. Placed on hospice, her only hope was divine intervention. Prayers were answered and this amazing woman is, indeed, a walking miracle.
Both women have placed their hope in God. Hope. What does it look like? For me, hope shines brightest when I’m at my lowest.
Hope is the word I recently chose to study in the scriptures. Each morning, after I read my daily devotional, I turn to the concordance in the back of my Women of Faith Bible and look up verses referencing hope. One of my favorites is Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”