Re-Gifting the Beautiful Gift of the Gospel

The Gift of the Gospel
No greater gift exists than the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the very definition of Christmas.

As mentioned in last week’s post, there seems to be a softness to one’s soul this time of year. Songs, the scent of certain foods, hymns, readings, and traditions take many of us back to simpler days. But this divinely placed soft spot also gives us unique opportunities to invite others into our story, into the story of the gospel.

I couldn’t close this Christmas mini-series without focusing on the greatest Gift ever, so here are five ways we can share the gift of knowing the one true living God (not to be confused with knowing about God). Thank You, Jesus.

5 Ways We Can Share the Gospel This Christmas

Add an extra gift to your list. Do you have those on your Christmas list who do not have a relationship with Christ? Consider purchasing a small gift that could be given in addition to a gift of their choice. This way, they might be more open to enjoying the extra gift rather than resenting it. Some ideas might be a book, bookmark, or a candle with John 8:12 written on an attached note.

Invite that person God has been laying on your heart to join you for coffee. Pray for ways to share your gospel story. It’s one story that can never be disputed! {If this person is not the same sex as you, invite your wife/husband/friend to join you. It’s just a wise thing to do.}

Give purpose to your Christmas light expeditions around local neighborhoods. This year will be the first in over twenty years that our family hasn’t driven around our local neighborhoods that we love so much. We’ve all moved to different areas but putting the kids (or grandkids!) in pj’s and riding around on holiday nights leaves lasting memories. I wish I’d thought of this particular idea I’m sharing today before our boys grew up. {We always judged the lights – how’s that for sharing the love?) Here goes: Before you go, share different ways you can pray for people you don’t know. Write them down and take them with you. Before you pull out of the driveway, pray that the Holy Spirit will make each person sensitive to His leading in praying for complete strangers on your route. Take turns praying for whatever houses you feel led to pray for. If you’re in a neighborhood and it’s safe, pull over and pray in front of the home. It doesn’t have to be a long prayer. Something as simple as “Lord, please give this family peace” is a sweet fragrance to God.

Pray before our feet hit the floor. Opportunities, especially during this season, are ripening Cookies with purposeall around us. Pray that the Holy Spirit would make you sensitive to His leading as you go through your day. Purposeful prayer is a potent weapon!

Bake cookies. But don’t stop there! Choose cookie cutters that hold a symbol of the gospel story: a star, cross, heart, cradle, etc. Be creative! Write out a corresponding verse (Google “scripture” and then a particular shape or object and see what happens!). Attach your verse and note to the cookies. Or use Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the LORD is good”. Deliver the cookies with a warm smile and release the results to God.

I pray that you and your family will have a
beautiful,
blessed,
grace-filled,
forgiven and Gospel-driven Christmas.

{And a Happy New Year! See you in January!}

This is Christmas: not the tinsel, not the giving and receiving, not even the carols, but the humble heart that receives anew the wondrous gift, the Christ. – Frank McKibben

You might like:
The Meaning of the Gospel – Tim Keller

Re-Gifting the Fragrance of Forgiveness

The fragrance of forgiveness

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” -Mark Twain

Fragrances during the Christmas season can evoke a mix of emotions, even unexpected ones. One whiff of vintage vinyl and I become ten years old all over again, upstairs in my grandmother’s house where we played Johnny Mathis and Bing Crosby. Or the scent of firewood freshly split for the woodburning fireplace transporting me back to a house filled with love, laughter, and impromptu family concerts in the den.

The sense of smell is a powerful sensory. In fact, it’s the most sensitive of the whole bunch. Perhaps this is why Mark Twain’s quote catches my heart every time. Sometimes it’s my heel that tramples on another. And then there are times when I must be the one to release the fragrance of forgiveness because of the bruised and imprinted heel marks left on my own life. Just as the violet doesn’t decide as to whether or not it should forgive the heel that stepped upon it, neither do I.

For how could I, a forgiven soul through the fragrance of Christ, even consider withholding it from another?

Christmas cookiesThere seems to be a spot divinely embedded in the heart that softens at Christmas, offering unique opportunities to forgive even the smallest of offenses. People attend a Christmas Eve services, send cards, bake cookies, visit neighbors and nursing homes, etc. The list goes on!

Below are a few ideas on ways we can practice the art of re-gifting the fragrance of forgiveness this year:
  • Re-gifting the fragrance of forgiveness happens when we first forgive ourselves. Much like the gift of grace, we cannot give to others what we ourselves do not possess. If we are in Christ, we do possess forgiveness⎯but embracing it for ourselves often proves to be more difficult than offering it to others. {Or at least that’s what I’ve found to be true in my own life.} Poor choices I made years ago still quicken tears in my eyes more often that most know, but at the core of my sadness, I know that God, through Christ, has forgiven me for those past sins. It’s only because of my confidence in Christ that I can move forward in joy. And you can, too. Need a little reminder today of God’s gift of forgiveness toward you? Savor His words found in 1 John 1:9, Isaiah 43:25,26, Acts 3:19, Isaiah 1:18, etc.
  • Re-gifting the fragrance of forgiveness happens through simple, thoughtful gifts. If you know that you’ve offended or hurt someone in your circle of life, take a few moments to write a note and attach it to a plate of cookies. Leave it on their doorstep and let your written words open the door to future conversations.
  • Re-gifting the fragrance of forgiveness happens when you forgive someone else before they even ask for it. This goes beyond the realm of what’s expected but isn’t that what Jesus did at every turn? You can forgive them quietly in your heart or by extending your forgiveness through a card or letter. Not sure where to begin? Dayspring offers biblical greeting cards that will help get you started. Sometimes that’s all we need, right? If the person in need of forgiveness has passed, write a letter to him/her. Then throw it away or burn it, symbolizing the release that’s taken place within.

This Christmas, and every day, may we be the fragrance of Christ through the way we love, serve, and forgive others. When others see, hear, and rub shoulders with us, may they catch a whiff of the costliest, most extravagant fragrance of all.

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us triumphantly in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” 2 Corinthians 2:14

Who needs Chanel Coco Noir Eau de Parfum under the tree when the sweetest fragrance of all lies within us?

Is there a particular scent that evokes a past memory for you at Christmastime? Please share!

 

Week 1: Re-gifting the Gift of Grace

4 Ways I Love to Celebrate Lent

“Lent isn’t about forfeiting as much as it’s about formation.” -Ann Voskamp

For those of you who, like me, didn’t grow up celebrating Lent there is much to learn, and much to celebrate. Jesus Christ’s 40 days of fasting in the desert are the spiritual foundation for the season that begins on Ash Wednesday.

Thomas Merton wrote, “Lent is not just a time for squaring conscious accounts: but for realizing what we had perhaps not seen before.”

Lent officially began February 10th, but we know it’s never too late to worship, or to discover new ways to worshipping, even if we didn’t grow up celebrating the Lenten season.

Below are four resources I LOVE and have used. I hope you’ll share yours in the comment section!

 

I’m using Ann Voskamp’s free 40 Day Lent Devotional this year. I wish I’d started on the 10th, but I didn’t, so I will begin where I am.
Here are some quotes on Lent to consider during this season, and every day:
“The goal of fasting is inner unity. This means hearing, but not with the ear; hearing, but not with the understanding; it is hearing with the spirit, with your whole being.” Fr. Thomas Merton
“Lord, have mercy on me! … I make no effort to conceal my wounds. You are my physician, I your patient. You are merciful; I stand in need of mercy.” St. Augustine
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
Do you have a go-to resource for the Lenten season (February 10-March 24), or what is one way you choose to prepare your heart for Easter? 

One Simple But Meaningful Gift for Singles this Valentine’s Day

by Cathy Baker @cathysbaker

I’ve been thinking a lot about Hagar lately.

Remember in Genesis 16 when she fled from Sarai? She felt abandoned and probably forgotten by God. She must have felt as if no one saw her, or cared about her, or the baby she was carrying.

This Valentine’s Day, many of you will find your love life to be much like a box of chocolates⎯satisfying, sweet, ooey-gooey on the inside…all yours to enjoy.

For others, it might instead be a day of remembering what was lost, or what could have been. It could be a day when you relate more to Hagar than you ever thought possible.

I remember reading the story of Hagar (Genesis 16) in my early 30’s as a relatively new believer. I wept when I read verse 13. It had only been a handful of years since I was a single mom struggling with similar emotions. But God {game changer} rescued me, and as a result, I could say for the first time, as did Hagar, I have now seen the One who sees me.

It’s because of those single days that my heart goes out to you who may not hear your name called when flowers are delivered to your workplace, or handed your very own box of chocolates to enjoy.

This year, while strolling {okay, stalking} the $1.00 aisle at Target, glass jars with sparkly hearts spoke to me. I didn’t exactly know what I would do with them, but that didn’t stop me from buying several.

After a little thought and prayer, I decided to make a jar filled with seven slips of paper, each with a different promise from God. Seven, because it’s the biblical number for completion. In Christ, we find our completeness⎯not in another person, our children, our homes or anything else. His promises from the Word are active and alive, able to lift the heaviest of hearts.

 

A Gift of God’s Promises

 

 

 

{This is the jar I found at Target but you can use any container.}

{At first I felt a little guilty for not handwriting the promises but then I was reminded that it’s not my hand that holds the power, but His. Click here for a printable copy of the seven promises I’m using.}

 

{I also found these tags in the $1.00 bin at Target.}
 

{On each tag, I’ll write a brief note describing why seven promises were chosen. I’ll also share how much they are loved, especially by their heavenly Father.}

And the best, most precious gift we can to give anyone is prayer. As I head to their home or to the post office to deliver the gifts, I will pray for each of them by name.

 

She [Hagar] gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Genesis 16:13

Has God placed a Hagar in your life? We have a week to consider how we can love others, single or not, around us this Valentines Day.  

What is one of God’s promises that you would include in the above gift? Please share! 
If you missed Saturday’s post, Edie Melson: A Glimpse Into Her Quiet Time, click here to read it. Be blessed!

When Gratefulness Shows Up in A Jar

The spirit of gratefulness permeates the month of November like none other, and for good reason. Thanksgiving, filled community food pantries, families gathered, memories made, etc.

In celebration, every Monday and Wednesday during November, I’ll share specific and creative ways we can shift gratitude from a feeling to an action.

Today’s project will give us plenty of time to gather all our gratefulness into a glass jar before Thanksgiving. I touched on the subject back in 2013 and felt it was time to bring it up again because I know the impact it made on those who received my gratitude in a jar.

 

 

{Start A “Why I’m Grateful For You” Jar Today}
  • Small Mason jar or any pint-sized jar (based on how many pieces of paper you use)
  • Paper and Pen
  • Ribbon, markers, or peel-off lettering to decorate jar

Cut paper into small tag-size pieces. On each piece of paper, write out one specific reason why you are grateful for that person. The more specific, the better.

It can be something small or seemingly insignificant. Share a memory or a specific way that person makes you feel. You can use a random number of tags to be opened at any time, or…

I made one of these jars for each of my grandmothers a few years before their passing. I gave it to them at Thanksgiving, filled with 31 tags, asking them to read one tag every day in December. They both shared how much it meant to them to read the specific ways they’d blessed my life. I didn’t want there to be any question in their minds as to how much they meant to me, how much I loved them.

Gratitude in action is a beautiful thing.

How can you put your gratitude in action through a “Grateful for You” jar this Thanksgiving?

Congratulations to Heather, the random winner of the tea mug filled with tea, and especially prayers. I just need your address! 🙂

 

Fall Decorating – 16 Ideas!

When I jotted down these fall ideas for this month’s challenge awhile back, this idea made the cut.

My plans included a walk through my yard, a pair of clippers, and lots of photos. But the weather has a way of changing things up, much like the seasons.

So I took to the internet to find ideas much more creative than I could ever dream up — and while there were many, none quite compared to this recent post on Houzz.

In Laura Gaskill’s article, Decorating With Nature in Fall and Winter, she shares sixteen unique and creative ideas, like this one with the clipped branches from a sugar maple tree. It serves to celebrate the season in all its glory like none other. Even the fallen leaves on the floor add to the celebration!

Other natural items used in the article above are feathers, branches (with lights — love!), leaves for natural fall garlands, etc.

Stop by and take a look! All the ideas are on one page so there’s no irritating pauses between clicks.

Enjoy!