Let Peace Rule – Advent Devotional Week 4

Let Peace Rule – Advent Devotional Week 4

It was September 1999 after Brent and I had dated for 2 1/2 years when, in typical female style, I wanted commitment. Although I was crazy about him, my peace with our relationship was waning. Brent was understandably cautious about taking the ‘marriage’ plunge with
anyone, much less a gal with my disability…yet I needed to get commitment or back off and regroup. That was when, after much prayer and agony, I talked to Brent about a ‘break’. It was a difficult but healthy time for both of us. When Brent called me a week after our ‘break’ started to ask me out it was almost impossible to say no, but God gave me the strength to do it. Test – passed!

Even though this ‘break’ was rife with sadness, I had peace. No matter what happened I knew we would both be fine – whether together or not.  My heart dealt with grieving the potential loss of Brent as well as the loss of my mom four months earlier.  It was my relationship with God and love for wisdom that gave me the strength to make a tough choice. I knew that peace within is not a mere absence of grief or difficulty, but an active experience of following God that promotes peace regardless of circumstances.

As we light the advent candles we remember that Christ’s birth set the stage to bring us life with hope, love, joy and peace. He is ever present in our times of grief and difficulty. I can’t help but pause to think of those who struggle to celebrate this season because they grieve.

The focus of peace reminds me to find gratitude and celebrate by making choices – wise choices – that may be tough but bear good fruit. Peace is present when we choose to thank, choose to let go of fear, and choose to trust the One and Only – especially in our grief and heartache – and even if it means a girl might never get married or never walk again!

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

Obviously, the story of our relationship ended in marraige…we took our healthy ‘break’ and after a couple months began to see each other again. To my complete surprise within two months Brent proposed! I think I said something like ‘Huh? Are you sure you want to get married?’ Oh yeah, then I said ‘Yes!’.

As we approach Christmas  ‘may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’ Romans 15:13 NIV

Would love to hear about your difficult, yet ‘peace-full’ circumstances…

When Joy is Hard to Find – Advent Devotional Week 3

When Joy is Hard to Find  – Advent Devotional Week 3

Even though the third week of Advent highlights the spirit of joy that Christ brings into the world there’s no doubt that our human nature finds it hard to grasp joy in the midst of trauma, tragedy, suffering and sorrow. We have seen the devastation of children caught in this world’s evil and my own recent experiences with friends who have difficulties – be it sickness, impending grief, loneliness or shattered relationships – highlights that it is the time of year when sorrows and frustrations are magnified.

Yet in the midst of trouble there is hope for joy. It’s a tenacious joy you experience that’s not necessarily “happiness” but you know you are walking on the road you are currently called to walk…even when it hurts…even when it means putting one foot in front of the other moment by moment to get to the next day and next year, trusting in God’s faithfulness.

As we prepare to remember, reflect, and celebrate the gift of our Savior, I ponder that night we often call a silent night, a holy night. Indeed it was a holy night, but I would venture to say it might not have been a silent one as there were groans of childbirth and the hustle and bustle of a busy town all around.  Chaos prevailed as sojourners returned  to Bethlehem for the census.  People were tired and frustrated from many days of difficult travel.

….And then without fanfare hope, love, joy and peace humbly came to earth for us.

Today I pray that our eyes can see and ears can hear what the Spirit may be saying to us about our upcoming week and about our preparations for a new year. I need the encouragement of the Holy Spirit to ground me and keep me focused and to help me curtail my times of complaint and ingratitude:

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  John 14:26

Holy Spirit, remind us of what you have taught us and help us to live our lives for your people and your purposes. Thank you for the opportunity you give us to comfort those who mourn and bless those in need. Let us be your vessels of hope, love, joy and peace.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:12, 15

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15 :13  

Love is…Advent Devotional Week 2

Love is… Advent Devotional Week 2

The small decoupage plaque hung on the wall in my parents bedroom. There were four cartoon like boys and one girl painted on the plaque below the inscribed words “Love is marrying a man with five children.”  Marrying a widower with five children was a life change requiring devotion, work and sacrifice for my second mom. Not everyone has faith (or sheer stamina) to commit to such an undertaking even for a wonderful man like my father.

In not such a dissimilar way, my husband, by marrying me, a paralyzed woman with a high level spinal cord injury, has more than demonstrated a great heart of service, commitment and sacrifice. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure my mom was blessed and my husband is blessed in both tangible and intangible ways….not just in spite of their situations…but because of them. For that I am most grateful.

In pondering the advent of Christmas and the theme of love for this week, I appreciate human examples that help me glimpse the true love of God and inspire me toward that great love. I see them all around me when I choose to stop and look and appreciate. It’s so easy to be tainted by the negative and destructive voices and actions that are so prevalent in our society….and in our own lives.

Why not choose to see each day with grateful, compassionate eyes and fight against the negativity of this world and the lust for earthly comforts that do not satisfy?

In fighting this negativity, I’m adding an emphasis on “no complaining words”…a kind of “complaining” fast so to speak. Who knows, maybe it will change the way I’ve been handling health issues and other frustrations recently. Words have power. Words matter.

Last night, after bemoaning to my husband about the slow and uncomfortable healing of a wound, I caught myself. Stopping, I realized that if I wasn’t complaining I might be crying (Ah! The ways we cope). But you know what? I may have needed a few tears and a hug of comfort to acknowledge that sometimes life and love are tough – and I’ll venture to say my husband may have appreciated that hug much more than the complaint.

How about you? How are your words? Especially to those who are closest to you?

Father, help us embrace your unending love for us and freely share it with others, always using our tongue as a weapon of blessing.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power….to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”  
Ephesians 3:17, 18 NIV

May we speak the truth in love and may we love with ALL our words as we prepare to celebrate the Savior’s birth… ~Madge


Hope – Advent Devotional Week 1

Hope – Advent Devotional Week 1

“God is the only one who can make the valley of trouble a door of hope.” – Catherine Marshall

As the advent of our Savior coming to earth is remembered and celebrated, the hope we profess is often tested and tried. The pains of life – Illness, loss, loneliness and wounded relationships, etc. can be magnified as the season ensues.

The hustle of preparations can distract us from pain until we stop and silence ourselves. Christmas music, decorations and family traditions may dull the pain of hopelessness…but our heavenly father sees and can disarm the power of this world’s pain with hope today as he did in many years past when the first Christmas was arriving.

What was young Mary thinking when she realized that she would bear the son of God? What would she say to her family as a young engaged girl who found herself pregnant? Mary had to wonder what would happen to her when the angel told her she would be with child. Surely anxious thoughts of embarrassment, fear and uncertainty crept into her mind… But hope prevailed. The hope that what the angel said was true, the hope that she indeed would bear a son and name him Jesus, the hope that her cousin Elizabeth would also be pregnant as the angel told her. By God’s grace the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leapt at Mary’s (Jesus’s) arrival! I can only imagine the comfort Mary felt as she was with Elizabeth.

Young Mary embraced her dilemma with grace and held to hope. Hope. Yes…Hope. “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.” 1 Cor. 13:13a

When we have hope we dare to love. When we have hope we step into situations that might be uncomfortable with a different perspective. When we have hope we can face fears head on and receive grace.

The first week of Advent is underway. Let’s usher in this sacred season knowing that we will likely need an intentional reminder of our true hope during the upcoming weeks.

My prayer today is that we have hearts that are ready to receive as we embrace our Savior coming to earth and that we have hearts that are determined to give. May we pray that we see the needs which God has called us and equipped us to meet and grasp the grace to humbly serve in them. Oh Father, show each of your plan for how we can give others hope this season. Help each of us to rest solidly with hope in you. Amen.

Below are a couple suggested verses for my scripture memory friends – if you haven’t joined us this year maybe you’ll consider memorizing some verses with us next year! It’s a powerful habit indeed!

He is the one we proclaim admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” Col. 1:28-29

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for he who promised is faithful.” Heb. 10:23