Merry Christmas, Friends!

During this holy season of Christmas, 
Walk Right In Ministries thanks you 
for bringing hope and resources to people experiencing challenges like disability, mental health struggles, aging, caregiving and chronic illness.  
 
“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.”  
Psalm 39:7
 

Christmas Cookies & Caregiver Connectedness

I made two batches of Christmas cookies yesterday and found myself reminiscing over how the process makes me feel connected to loved ones of Christmases past. For example, I remembered the special way my grandma stored her cookies. She kept them in tins on the floor of her front coat closet. The cookies stayed cold there because she had a mail slot in the wall that let the winter chill leak inside. I shuddered to go in there but the reward was worth a hundred shivers! As I flipped through old cookbooks, I found a note from 1994 showing we made 75 dozen cookies that year. Four families gathered with our little ones for a whole afternoon and made nine different kinds. As the kids got older, we got even more productive but the pizza bill in the evenings also got quite a bit larger.

Sweet discovery in my cookbook. Our oldest daughter would have been almost 2 years old.

Baking, in general, makes me feel more connected to my roots. As I considered which traditional cookies to make this Christmas and imagined the similarities of my process to other women in my family, I found myself cherishing those relationships and generations.

I also thought of friends. One of my girlfriends made a traditional British cookie. It was only her third Christmas in the US at the time. Another friend used salt in place of sugar in a recipe one year and we still laugh about those first confused bites of recognition. Another friend made huge monster cookies when the rest of us were making dainty and fancy Christmas morsels. She grew up on a farm with six kids. I’m sure that situation played a significant part in forming her family’s tradition. It was fun to see our unique histories reflected in the variety when everything got plated up.

The way I feel connected to my fellow bakers during cookie baking is much like the connection I feel to other special needs moms at holiday time.

When my stressors are high because Carly’s routines are out of whack or when family games are interrupted by a diaper catastrophe, I’m tempted to feel sorry for myself. Holidays have a way of shining a spotlight on the many ways my life is vastly different — more complicated and more demanding — than it is for most of those around me. I long for more freedom to experience the ease and spontaneous joys of festive seasons. And those thoughts can make me feel emotional, depressed, frustrated, guilty and different or isolated from the rest of the world.

Reality is I am not alone. There is a world full of special needs parents who know a great deal about challenges just like mine. They are in their own homes, often feeling very alone amidst the merriment too. That’s why one of my favorite go-to verses during holidays and vacations is 1 Peter 5:8-11. I am comforted that others understand my challenges and I find great reassurance that God is a warrior advocate for me.

Cast all your anxieties on God, because he cares for you. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up and resist him. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on your faith in Jesus Christ. The suffering won’t last. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are! — will have you put together and on your feet for good. God has you on a firm foundation.

He holds dominion and He gets the last word. Yes, he does.

1 Peter 5:8-11 (paraphrased)

Friends, let’s praise God we are interconnected around the world and through the generations! I’ll be praying for you while I bake.

Four Promises to Anchor and Encourage One Another During the Holidays

1. Nobody is immune to trouble but we have hope.
Jesus said I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NLT)
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)
2. God remains your most faithful advocate.
The Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them.”  Exodus 2:23-25, 3:7-8 (NLT)
So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! Luke 15:3-7 (NLT)
And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.  Romans 8:26-27 (NLT) 
3. You are never alone.
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. 1 Peter 5:6-10 (NLT)
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:8 (NLT)
4. When you suffer, God’s comfort will be multiplied to you and through you.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NLT)





Christmas Worship Like the First Time (Part 2)

One definition of worship is “to express reverence or adoration of someone or some thing.” By this definition we have all been guilty, at one time or another, of showing more affection, appreciation and priority for other people, places, objects and activities in our lives than we have shown toward God Himself.

Jesus knew that true children of God would make it their priority to follow Him into the world proclaiming the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:57-62). People who are awakened to the joy of their salvation want everything about their lives to reflect the One who has rescued them.

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. 

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:7-14

Jesus Himself often told people to go tell their friends and family what God had done for them (Mark 5:18-20, Luke 8:39). But there were also many times when Jesus didn’t specifically instruct someone to go and tell. They just did. They did because they were so moved by Jesus’ compassion toward them and His power of transformation in their lives that they couldn’t stop talking about Him! And the passion of their testimony paired with the evidence seen in their renovated lives caused people to be amazed and worship God (Mark 2:11-12).

Oh, that our enthusiasm and gratitude would overflow as worship (Psalm 23:5, Romans 15:13, 2 Corinthians 4:15, 2 Corinthians 8:2, 2 Corinthians 9:12, Colossians 2:7)!

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:4-5, 9

Lifting our eyes to see God and then giving voice to what we see is worship. What we see and say about God will also lead other people to worship.

This reflection on worship is excerpted from “Living Your Glory Story” available at Amazon and the Walk Right In Ministries store.  Copyright © 2013 Walk Right In Ministries. All rights reserved.


Christmas Worship Like the First Time (Part 1)

It’s December and, once again, Christians all over the world are celebrating Jesus’ first coming. I’ve been thinking about when I first experienced Jesus’ coming into my own heart and life in a way that I knew was real and deeply personal.  I recall a sense of wonder and intrigue in my worship that year which was very different than years before. 

I want my current worship to reflect at least the same vigor and curiosity as it had in those early months when I knew my life and passions had been profoundly changed forever. That was a time when others noticed my new priorities and sometimes wondered about them too. I hope my life compels others to turn and look where I’m looking — toward the treasure of Jesus.

I’ve been studying Revelation this fall. Three things are striking and inspiring to me about John’s vision of Jesus. First, it is while John was worshipping “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” that Jesus revealed Himself to John.  Next, John “turned to see the voice that was speaking” to him. He paid attention and had an opportunity to see the manifest presence of Jesus for Himself!  When John saw Jesus, he “fell at his feet as though dead.” And do you know what Jesus did then? 

Jesus touched John.

I wonder. Will my life and faith reflect the kind of zealous and attentive worship that leads to such an intimate encounter with God? Will yours? 


How might the world around us be different if our Christmas worship reflects the kind of wonder and enthusiasm we had the first time we encountered Jesus in an intimate way?

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” 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.” 

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. Luke 2:9-17 (NLT)