Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means “God is with us.”
Matthew 1:23 NLT
In Matthew 1, we see the angel confirming to Joseph the good news–Mary will have a son, named Jesus, who will save his people from their sins. In verse 23, the prophecy of his coming is recounted. After years of waiting, the prophecies were going to be fulfilled. The king was coming! He entered the world he created under the humblest of conditions and nothing has ever been the same.
It is the same way when we accept him and he enters our hearts, nothing is ever the same. From that day forward, we have the assurance that he is with us.
This is something I know, but this year God has moved me from theory to application and I see it a little clearer. He is with me, and he will give me everything I need, becausehe ISeverything I need.
I offer the words of a well-loved Christmas song, “O come, let us adore him.” It serves as an instruction and an invitation. Come! Adore him! The angels did: they burst into a chorus of praise after the proclamation of the good news about Jesus. The shepherds did: they rushed to see him when they heard the news. The wise men did: they followed his star from afar off and came to worship. Mary and Joseph did: they were obedient to God in caring for their son and Saviour. No matter our status or position in this world–Jesus is the great equalizer. We all bow before the king.
Come and adore him this Christmas. Isn’t he beautiful? He came to save us all those years ago, just as promised. He didn’t leave us alone and he never will. Ever beautiful, ever present, ever worthy–He’s here!
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others- the armies of heaven- praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
“And you saw how the Lord your God cared for you all along the way as you traveled through the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child. Now he has brought you to this place. But even after all he did, you refused to trust the Lord your God…”
Deuteronomy 1:31-32 NLT
Though this passage refers to a specific people in a specific time, it is applicable in our present day. In this passage, Moses was reminding the people of Israel of how God, in his kindness and fatherly love, had cared for them and guided them.
Despite all he’d done, they doubted and failed to trust him fully. They had a history marred with distrustful grumbling and complaining. Relatable?
Just as they did, we often find ourselves facing difficult situations as well. No level of positive mindset or toxic positivity will prevent this. We do not live in a perfect world. The evils and cares of the world will at some point affect us all. They remind us that this is not the original design and make us long for a heavenly home that is to come, but not yet. It is okay to take your distress and burdens to God, it is encouraged. He welcomes our disappointments, hardships, and sorrows. Prayer in this way is one of our most powerful tools in dealing with our woes. We are instructed to cast all cares on him.
The danger is found when we keep our cares instead of casting them. They accumulate, they fester, they multiply; all while our faith diminishes. It is an insidious process resulting in distrust and discontented complaining.
This type of complaining calls into question whether he’s fair, if he’s even good, or if he even cares. It opens a crack to allow the enemy into plant seeds of doubt against God’s character, ushering in the same unbelief the people of Israel experienced.
Left to our own thoughts and reasoning, it is easy to lose sight of God’s mercy and grace, just as they did. Mercy reminds me that us that we are not receiving our just due for all of our mistakes and missteps, grace reminds us that we didn’t earn or deserve the blessings we have. They shift us to a posture of gratitude and humility. And humility reminds us that we don’t know as much as we think we do. God knows best.
And so, when we feel entitled to grumble, with humility and childlike faith, we can instead cast our cares and accept his will as the best thing, not because we understand it but because we trust him. He has already proven himself.
So, today as many of us turn our hearts and minds toward gratitude and the giving of thanks, maybe this is the perfect time to complain less and cast more. I pray God will give us the strength to do just that. And as we gather and give thanks, I pray we experience his mercy and grace with truly grateful hearts.
Because the Lord is so merciful, he keeps us from falling. Life can present us with a slippery slope of trials and challenges. Temptations can lead us on a downward spiral. Emotional challenges can cause us to lose our footing.
In all of this, thank you, Lord, for your unfailing love! Despite what we face, what happens to us and sometimes even what we bring on ourselves– when we call out to him in our distress, he will always hear us. His eyes are on his children, and he listens for our cry. And because his mercy is everlasting, just like he caught Peter before the waves could overtake him, he will do the same for you and me.
Thank you for always being with us. There’s no place we can go to escape your presence. Your eyes are always on us. Your ears are always open. Your arm of strength is always ready to fight for us. Your plan will always prevail. We know this God, but if we fully internalized it, how much more peace would we experience? Thank you for teaching us more and more every day to trust you and believe your every word. And when we forget what you’ve taught us, thank you for reminding us again. Your patience never runs out. Your love is unfailing. Your mercy is forever. I pray this prayer with love and adoration and in Jesus’ wonderful name,
Before the year ends, I want to thank everyone who took the time to read my blog this year. Your support, messages, and kind words have encouraged me more than you know. I pray that something you read was a blessing to you. As we leave 2021 in the past and look forward to greeting a brand-new year, I just want to offer a prayer of blessing for my readers.
It’s a privilege and a blessing to be here at the close of another year. For the past 12 months you’ve watched over us, protected us and blessed us. You were so generous with your gifts. When things were unstable, you stood firm. When times were dark, you were the light. For everything we lost, we learned that you would always make up the difference. You were always more than enough.
I’m asking you to bless those who’ve read any portion of my blog this year. Bless their families, their finances, their health. Give them wisdom and peace and joy. Keep them safe and in the center of your will. Above all else, give them a closer relationship with you. Give them confidence in you as they embark on the journey of a new year. This year has not been easy, and the prospect of the unknown can seem daunting. Remove any fear and anxiety that may be taunting them. Remind them that when they walk with you, they can laugh without fear of the future.
Let them be full of faith, always abounding, always growing, bearing much fruit and bringing glory to your name. Let them always remember how much you love them. Whatever you have in store for 2022, thank you in advance.
In Jesus’ name,
Thanks again to each of you and if it’s in the Lord’s will, I’ll see you in 2022❤
It’s officially winter and it’s the most wonderful time of the year!
I love the holidays, but I’m more of a sun and fun girl. But my least favorite season—fall. I kind of hate it. Leaves dying, cold weather inevitably coming. To say I hate it is a little dramatic, but I’ve always thought fall was overrated.
I remember driving one day this fall and realizing the leaves on a specific type of tree had turned a brilliant orange. Others were red, green or yellow. But the orange stood out to me. I’m thirty?? years old and I’ve never seen them this shade. I’ve always thought the fall colors were beautiful, but cliché as it may sound, I felt like I was seeing them anew. It was so much so that I asked a few of my family and friends if the leaves looked different to them this year. It looked like the color saturation you see with a social media filter. For weeks, every time I drove I paid attention. I took alternative routes to see what the trees looked like in other areas. It was absolutely beautiful and it gave me a new respect for fall. Still, I couldn’t figure out why it looked so different, until I realized it wasn’t the trees.
It was me. I’m different this year.
I’ve been working on gratitude, being more present and savoring the moments. I guess it was a success because I found myself enthralled by something I used to be indifferent towards.
I’ve found myself looking at things a little differently lately. I don’t know if it’s because of an approaching birthday, the ever raging pandemic, the innumerable ways my life has changed, or all of the above. Either way, things are different and I am different. The past two years have taught me a lot. Don’t take the small moments for granted. Savor your happiness. Find joy. Seek peace. Wisdom is more valuable than money. One of the most impactful lessons has been an old faithful. Gratitude.
In my lowest and highest moments this year, and I’ve had my share of both, there was always something to be grateful for. During one of my more difficult times I began listing five things I was grateful for during my nightly prayers. Some days my list went over five. Some days it was challenging because I honestly didn’t feel grateful. So I started listing small things like, being able to smell my favorite scent or something that made me laugh or smile that day. That caused a shift for me.
When I started looking for things to be grateful for, I started finding things to be grateful for.
This is a gentle reminder for anyone reading (mostly for myself) that when looking at your situation, it helps to use a filter. Look through a lens of gratitude and see what changes. Notice the difference in color, contrast and tone. Does it look any different? Is there anything you missed at first glance?
As my gratitude practice progressed, I began to list five of God’s characteristics to thank him for. His kindness, patience, love, mercy, forgiveness, wisdom, friendship… I went on like this for a week and I never needed to repeat one.
When my circumstances aren’t overflowing with reasons to be grateful at first glance, I can look again with a different lens. And no matter the season, I can always be grateful to God for who he is. He never changes. He is always the same and because of that, I’ll always have a reason to be grateful.
How can I thank you? I’m reflecting today on specific events, dates, and seasons in my life. I wouldn’t be here today if it had not been for you. You have taken me to some high heights and through some deep lows. In my reflection, I can’t trace a time when you have neglected me. You’ve never walked away, never broken a promise. Instead, you’ve been consistent. You’ve been patient. You’ve given me freedom and joy and peace and grace without measure.
The most skilled and gifted among us have written songs and poems and think pieces about you and I can’t attempt to compete with the beauty of those tributes. I don’t have anything beautiful or profound today. I just want to thank you. Everything I am and everything I have is because of you.
A quick stroll through memory lane is all I need to revitalize my trust in you. When my path is unclear, glancing into the rearview mirror of my life reminds me of how far you’ve brought me. We have history. Whether in the distance past or just the recent days, you’ve given me uncountable blessings. You have been light and life. Sometimes I rehearse what I should forget and forget what I should rehearse. Help me to use my memory as a tool to cultivate my faith, courage and gratitude. You’ve already done so much. It’s true that if you did nothing more, I would still have enough to thank you for all eternity. But because of who you are, I know that you aren’t stopping with what you have already done. The best is still yet to come. Help me to remember that, too.
I’ve decided that the popular definition of strong is something I no longer want to identify with. When black women like me are labeled strong, it often refers more to how much pain we can tolerate, how much mistreatment and stress we can handle before breaking. (Bonus points for breaking privately, while maintaining a polished exterior.) It seems to be some sort of badge of honor, a consolation prize for pain unjustly endured.
I think that subconsciously, labeling someone strongcan dampen the labeler’s empathy for the “strong person.” Example: When statements like “I’m hurt” or “I’m struggling” are met with, “you’re strong” as though the latter negates the former. It can feel like your strength disqualifies you from help or compassion. Because you can bear something, does that mean you should have to bear it without help?
No one should be pushed to their capacity, just so that others can marvel at the vastness of their capacity. So for me, strong is over.
But shouldn’t Christians be strong in the Lord? Strong and courageous?
I’m not saying that I’m not strong. I have witnessed my own strength in situations that threatened to overwhelm me. Make no mistake, I am strong and I know this. But I am not strong in and of myself. God’s strength is perfect in my weakness. He gives me strength for the battle. He makes me strong.
But strength in society’s context lends to a more toxic definition and the true understanding gets misconstrued. It even tangles my own expectations of myself. Because of the way the label“strong Black woman” is weaponized against Black women, my choice is to distance myself from the burden, not the character trait.
If God remembers my frame, recalls that I am only made of dust and has compassion on me (Read Ps. 103)–I’m going to follow His lead and have some compassion on myself.
So for me this looks like asking for help, acknowledging my uncomfortable emotions, not feeling guilty for crying when something hurts. It looks like softness. Taking off the superwoman cape. Surrounding myself with people who handle me with care and extending the same grace to others. It looks like realizing the fullness of my potential, while fully respecting my limitations as a human.
On the heels of Resurrection Sunday, I’ve been allowing my imagination to dive a little deeper into the perspectives of those who witnessed that day and the surrounding events. Consider where things stood one week ago today, over 2,000 years ago. The crucifixion of the Savior of the world was taking place.
The Messiah, the promised One had come. He gave sight to the blind, he cast out demons, he raised the dead. He was going to set everything right and things were finally going to be perfect.
Except that they weren’t. On that Good Friday, things got worse. Imagine his followers rejoicing on Palm Sunday, not knowing that Good Friday was right around the corner.
The rumors and rumbles had started to grow louder. At Passover, when he sat with his disciples, he confirmed it all. He told them about the things that were to come. His betrayal, his death. He spoke of leaving. But how could that be? This was the Messiah they’d waited on. It had to have all been so confusing.
I can imagine how his disciples must’ve felt that night as they watched him betrayed by one of their own. And what about those that had personally experienced his miracles, those he taught in the temple, his family, his mom? They watched him tortured and mocked, watched him carry his cross, bloody and weak. Then they saw him on the cross, the suffering Savior. Envision what they must’ve felt watching from afar.
It had to have felt so hopeless at that moment. Blinded by what they saw, I can only assume the heaviness of the defeat and despair they felt. Where would they go from here?
What they didn’t know, was that though all of this was unfolding in what seemed to be a tragic turn of events leading to Jesus’ crucifixion, they were actually watching the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. It was part of the plan, in fact it was the plan. It had to be this way. He was going through with it for them. For me. For you.
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.
We know what they didn’t know. Sunday was coming. Sunday was part of the plan from the beginning as well.
Even greater than the despair that gripped the disciples’ hearts that Friday, was the hope and joy that overwhelmed them that Sunday morning when they found he had risen, just as he said.
Now a week later, the previous events playing over in their minds, still trying to make sense of it all, I imagine them feeling a myriad of emotions. Relief, that their worst fears would never come true. Jesus was alive and he was in fact, the true Messiah. Regret, that they had doubted him and deserted him at the most critical time in his human life. Yet still, overwhelming love and devotion, for the one who sacrificed it all and welcomed them back with open arms even after they’d failed him.
In this week following Resurrection Sunday, I want to remind myself and whoever is reading this, that nothing negates the promise. The situation may be bleak, it may even appear to be going in the opposite direction of the promise. And yes, it’s only human to have an emotional reaction to that. Some things just knock the wind out of you, no matter how close you are to Jesus.
But just like Jesus died and rose again, just like the disciples experienced the worst day of their lives followed by the best day in humanity’s history, in the end the promise will stand. God’s plan will prevail. Jesus is our hope and our promise. He has shown that he does not fail, not even death could defeat him.
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
Knowing that Jesus is the same God now as he was then, I receive and accept the hope that even in the midst of disappointment, confusion, or heartbreak, no matter what transpires–Sunday is still coming. One week can change everything.
Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends!