The Prayer Gift

13 12 2013

I love Christmas wrapping paper. There, I said it. I would collect wrapping paper if it wasn’t so difficult to store. I love the colors, the patterns, the textures, and the sparkle. Christmas wrapping paper makes me smile. It is fun, and is an essential element to transforming the pile in my bathtub into gifts that go under the tree.

Prayer is a lot like wrapping paper. It transforms what we wrap it around. When we give someone a wrapped gift, there is a sense of anticipation and excitement as we watch for smiles. Wrapping our cares, worries, joys, struggles, and needs in prayer does the same thing. We pour out our hearts before the Lord, wrapping each piece in prayer. Then we wait and watch. Because our needs are wrapped in prayer, we can live with open eyes, anticipating how God is going to move in each moment to fill it with His glory.

My Jesus Resolution today is to wrap my day in prayer. There is no greater gift that I can give someone than to wrap them in prayer. My struggles and my worries are transformed when I cover them in prayer and give them to God. My joys are made sweeter when I enclose them in an offering of praise. With each prayer comes transformation. My relationship with God is transformed as I open my heart wider to His presence. My stress and cares are transformed as I wrap them and put them in His hands. The people I pray for are transformed as God touches their lives. With every gift I wrap, I am going to pray for the person whose name is on the bow. Can you think of a better present?





The Trust Gift

11 12 2013

This story comes straight to you from the faith-full heart of a nine year old girl.

A grandmother and her granddaughter were enjoying lunch together at a local restaurant. The grandmother was telling her granddaughter how she and her friends meet at the restaurant every week, spending time together talking and enjoying deep friendship. “What do you talk about?” asked the granddaughter. “Everything,” said the grandmother with a smile. “You know, we sit together and solve the world’s problems.” The granddaughter looked at her grandmother with a puzzled expression. “Why? Don’t you think God can handle it?”

Ouch.

I love her insight. I am humbled and inspired by her words. I find myself needing to repent and to rub my bruised toes because she speaks the truth about my heart. Trust is a gift that we can offer to God this holiday season. Trust says that we understand who God is and that knowing His heart will change the direction of our hearts. Worry, anxiety, fretting, and stress all speak to my frantic efforts to manage the world around me. Trust allows me to step out of the driver’s seat and depend on the goodness of the Lord. I don’t have to know all the answers. I don’t even have to ask the right questions. I just have to acknowledge that God is in control, and keep my eyes open to the way He is working out His good and perfect will in me for His glory.

My Jesus Resolution today is to trust and obey. Every time worry creeps in and tries to snag my heart, I am going to resist the urge to grab the reins and find my own answers. I am going to allow trust to be a gift that my heart gives to God. A gift that is wrapped in surrender, quietness, and a willingness to wait. Whatever you are facing today, whatever worry has a stranglehold on your heart, whatever fear is holding you hostage, God can handle it. God is handling it because God has His hand on you. Trust Him.





The Praise Gift

9 12 2013

I could hear Andy Williams singing all over the store. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year. With kids jingle belling, and everyone telling you, ‘Be of good cheer.’ It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Humming along, it struck me how many superlatives we assign to the holiday season. Everything is the brightest, happiest, or merriest. The songs, movies, and commercials set our expectations and define our perspective about how amazing, romantic, festive, and jolly the season is supposed to be.

Yet, I want more out of this Christmas season. Not less merry and bright, but more awareness and appreciation for the One who longs to inhabit, shape, transform, define, and fill all of our seasons. Praise is the gift that will open my eyes and heart more fully to His presence. Praise requires me to stop and appreciate the heart of God. It asks me to look deeply into His character and name what I see.

“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” – Hebrews 13:15

Praising God opens our eyes to His nearness, our ears to His call, our souls to His grace, and our hearts to His transformation. Praising God isn’t about throwing around superlatives. It is about responding to the truth of who God is and where He longs to stand in our lives.

My Jesus Resolution today is to sing “How Great Thou Art” out loud. The verses of this song call me to reflect on the wonderful, amazing, marvelous, awesome things God has done. The chorus is my heart’s response to His glory. It is a song that calls me to awe, humility, repentance, and wonder. Singing it provides me with an opportunity to reset the world’s expectations with heavenly ones, allowing me to smile with the knowledge that every day with God really is the most wonderful time of the year.





The Compassion Gift

6 12 2013

It was family conference time. We all gathered around the kitchen table. My kids took their spots, but I could see them looking at each other with questions in their eyes. “Did you do it?” “Wasn’t me!” Actually, everyone was great. Sure the bathroom could be a little cleaner and the laundry still needed to be folded, but this family conference was about a weight on my heart.

“I have an idea,” I started. This generated both deep sighs and questioning looks. I looked at these people who have such a deep hold on my heart and spilled my soul. “We are so blessed. I want what we do for Christmas this year to last beyond the battery life of the latest electronic toy. I long for our gift-giving to be something that speaks Jesus into someone’s life. I would like for the abundance our family enjoys to overflow into a blessing for someone else. What do you think about taking some of the money we would spend on Christmas gifts for each other and give it away to help someone have the things we take so much for granted – clean water, food to eat, a warm coat, school supplies, or a safe place to rest their head?”

There was a moment of quiet around the table. I could see the wheels turning as they thought about what this would mean. It would easy for my husband and I to do something behind the scenes, but this year I feel an urgency to invite my children to experience the responsibility and embrace the sacrifice that comes with extending compassion. With very little hesitation, they nodded. Their willingness to step outside of themselves in order to give something that will make a difference was the best gift they could have given me.

My Jesus Resolution today is to give a gift motivated by compassion. This year we are going to buy just a little bit less in order to give a little bit more. Compassion is about looking beyond my own circle and seeing ways that the ripples of God’s love can be spread out just a little bit further. Giving a compassion gift can take many forms – a little time, a few dollars, or a bit of attention can all become acts of service that speak Jesus into someone’s heart and change us forever.





The Quiet Gift

4 12 2013

The Christmas season seems ramped up with noise. The usual busy bustle of our lives is magnified by the additional pressures of being jolly, generous, and full of holiday spirit. We love this time of year, but it is noisy and exhausting. There is special food to cook, shopping to do, bows to tie, and lights to hang. Add in the jingle bells, festive parties, and ho-ho-ho’s and it is easy to go through the whole season with the volume turned up.

I long for this Christmas season to be more than a whirlwind of activity. I want it to be a time to give myself more fully to God. One of the first gifts that I need to bring to Him is my determination to be quiet in His presence. To take a few minutes each day and commit myself to stillness.

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” – Psalm 37:7a

“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10a

“But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.” – Habakkuk 2:20

These aren’t suggestions. They are not meant as friendly devotional advice. Being quiet and still is foundational to living a life that is fully connected to God. Being still is about more than vegging out in front of the television. When we are still before the Lord, we make the humble move to step into a wider, richer, heaven-infused life. Choosing stillness opens our minds to wisdom and knowledge that is lost when I give in to overwhelming busyness. I miss God when all I do is go, go, go. Being quiet allows our souls to acknowledge who God is, where He stands in our lives, and the hold He has on our hearts. The commercials tell me to “shop, shop, shop.” God tells me that the best gift I can give Him is to “stop, stop, stop.”

My Jesus Resolution today is to give God the gift of my quietness. When I choose stillness, I am choosing to sacrifice my own activity, my own agenda, and my own pace in order to move into a moment entirely filled with God. It opens my eyes, softens my heart, and adjusts the flow of my soul. I am going to commit three minutes today to being still and quiet. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? But try it. Today I am going to turn off the music, the phone, the computer, and the television. I am going to set down the lists, the stress, and the expectations and give three minutes entirely to being quiet with God. I wonder how a God who fills eternity will use three minutes set aside to honor Him through quietness.





A Gift to Give

2 12 2013

The bathtub invasion has started. During the month of December, my bathtub is transformed from a place to get to wet to storage facilities for the Christmas elves. It holds mysteriously shaped packages, crumpled-closed bags, and the lists and plans for the gift-giving season. It is kind of fun to watch the bathtub fill up with goodies. Each gift represents time, thought, creativity, and love invested in the recipient.

As the month of December takes off, I want the growing pile of gifts in the bathtub to teach me how to give more and more of myself to God. Relationships are built on giving. We just spent Thanksgiving remembering how many gifts God has poured into our lives. The only gift that I have to give back to Him is myself. Even that is His, but He accepts what I give Him and uses it to draw me closer to His heart.

“A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great.” – Proverbs 18:16

If I am honest, this is what I want most for Christmas this year – more of the presence of God. I want less stress, more peace. Less worry, more joy. Less selfishness, more grace. Less being frantic, more being friends. Being deliberate about giving Him the gift of myself stretches my heart, opens my eyes, and ushers me into the presence of the Great One.

My Jesus Resolution today is to look for another kind of gift to give. In the midst of all the shopping, bows, paper, and lights, I would like to spend this time together exploring what we can give to God during this season of gifts. My heart is what God wants most of all. He longs for my life to shine and sparkle with His glory. Perhaps this kind of giving has the power to transform what is in the bathtub into gifts full of the thing I really want to give to my family and friends – a deeper, more abiding sense of His presence.