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)



Gear Up for Good Gifts

Thanksgiving, Christmas and a New Year are right around the corner. Days will be busy for most and lonely for some. Wherever we are on that spectrum, there is opportunity. I want to paint a picture of how we can give and receive life-lifting gifts this holiday season.

And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, 
so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.” Titus 3:14

Do you remember how it felt when you were the kid who got picked last because you ran a little slower than the rest, weren’t quick enough with your times tables or just weren’t wearing the right color shirt that day?  How about that time when a sprained ankle kept you on the bench? Your mom made you go to the game saying, “you’re still part of the team and need to show your support even if you can’t play!” Some part of you wanted to be there with your friends but another part would just rather have stayed home alone than be trapped on the sidelines unable to fully participate. 
The holiday season stirs very similar tensions for folks who are wrestling with something that is challenging or seems to differentiate them from the crowd.  Imagine these holiday scenarios:
You are the parent of a child with autism who has been invited to attend the family Thanksgiving. The atmosphere will create stress for your child — and so for you too. You anticipate being exhausted trying to manage your child’s disruptive behaviors. You will spend a lot of time on the periphery of the group watching other parents enjoying the freedom to relax in conversations and play traditional holiday games. You’ll probably spend the afternoon trying to help your child avoid a myriad of scene-causing possibilities from sensory overload to a toileting catastrophe or seizure.  Knowing you’ll get depressed and feel guilty for resenting others who will sip a drink and casually balance a full dinner plate in their lap, you consider staying home.
You have been having some difficulty remembering names and staying focused in conversations. It is frightening to go out in public. You aren’t comfortable speaking in case someone hears that you are struggling. You regret that you’ll miss seeing the grandchildren play but your mounting fears remind you that staying home feels safer.
You’d like to be with family for the upcoming holiday dinner but you don’t want to drag everyone down. You wish you could sit quietly on the couch just soaking up some of the joy around the room but you’ll feel pressure to participate and look happy. You suspect the family has wearied of your moods and just wants you to snap out of it. You feel misunderstood, unwanted and unsafe.
Going to church for the special holiday services has always been a joy for you but now it feels overwhelming. Seeing happy families reminds you of that loved one who won’t be with you this year. Unexpected moments of raw grief quickly spiral out of control. The last thing you want to do is draw attention, feel out of control or cast a shadow on someone else’s joy.
When Carly was first diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome, I suddenly found myself experiencing a paradox — surrounded by people who loved me yet feeling very alone. Some part of me knew these were not rational feelings. Yet I still encounter too many triggers for feelings of disappointment and isolation, especially during the holidays.  
Nobody likes to feel different, undervalued, isolated, last or lonely. Yet there is heartache and longing to feel included all around us. Whether you’re the one feeling sidelined during these holidays or someone who is enthusiastically gearing up for the celebrations, I hope you’ll pray for radar to recognize the Divine promises and opportunities.
4 Promises that Anchor and Encourage People
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: 4 “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? 5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. 6 When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 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)
5 Ways to Ease Someone’s Heartache During the Holidays
  1. Notice someone who may be hurting — Reassure someone who feels isolated that they are not invisible. Let a simple word or act of kindness speak clearly that people matter to you and to God. “Tithe” a few moments of each day to send a kind email or hand-written note, make a phone call, do an act of service or give a grocery/gas card. While you’re out in the community, be intentional and generous with your eye contact and a smile.
  2. Just BE — Come over and hang out next to someone (whether it’s across the room or across town). You don’t have to know what to say. Resist pulling back from relationships that feel awkward or too complicated. Your presence ministers so much more than you know.
  3. Listen first, then listen some more — Ask what somebody is thinking, feeling or wanting. Take time to understand what the person is experiencing and, without analyzing or judging them, learn how they are coping with life’s challenges.
  4. Remind someone of God’s sure promise — Share one of the examples above or describe one of God’s promises that has been tangible for you recently.
  5. Express appreciation and affirmation — Thank people for sharing their heart with you, for helping you learn something, or for coming to the party even though it was hard. Let someone know that their patient endurance through hardship inspires you. Tell a caregiver that they are doing a good, important and beautiful work.
Have you believed the lie that you are too busy to be used by God in sharing someone’s burden this holiday season? Or are you someone who is feeling too stuck or too broken to experience God’s touch? 
Here’s the truth:
God will generously provide all you need.
Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 
2 Corinthians 9:8 (NLT)
Let’s remember together that we live and move and have our being by the grace and power of God, not ourselves (lest we might boast about it). 
What wonderful inspiration and opportunity to carry us through these holidays and into a new year!


Merry Christmas!

The Walk Right In Ministries Board of Directors and our many other volunteers wish you a wonderful Christmas enjoying the awe, wonder, joy and peace of Jesus with loved ones.  We share this prayer from Robert Louis Stevenson:

Loving Father, Help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men. Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.  

Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clean hearts. May the Christmas morning make us happy to be Thy children, and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts—forgiving and forgiven—for Jesus’ sake, Amen!

The Wonder of God’s Christmas Presence (Part 3)

This is the final installment in a series of posts meditating on Immanuel — God with us.  Let’s continue worshipping together by thanking God for revealing Himself to us and by remembering how very near and accessible He is.


I have loved re-reading the experiences of the Israelites as the Christmas season comes around again. Not only does it fascinate and reassure me to “connect the dots” of covenant love and the fulfillment of Biblical prophecies, but I personally relate to the Israelite’s situation on a few levels. 


It is encouraging to me remembering that just as God’s presence led those freed slaves through a desert to the Promised Land, He is with me through times when I feel trapped in my circumstances or stuck in a wilderness. While God is moving me toward my Promised Land, the Holy Spirit dwells within me to guide me, inspire me, empower me, comfort me, advocate for me, equip me, protect me, reassure me when I’m discouraged, forgive me when I doubt Him, give me grace when I grow impatient and give me a restful peace when I feel frantic and overwhelmed.


I appreciate that the same promises God made to the Israelites remain true for me. And I understand those promises even more clearly now because Jesus’ presence brings new layers of enlightenment to what is happening then and now from the broader Kingdom perspective. 


How does God teach or encourage you with these verses about His presence today?

Exodus 25:21-22And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.  

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 

Colossians 1:26-28  The mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 

John 17:20-22  [Jesus said,]“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one. 

Hebrews 10:19-24 19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Luke 2:10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.   

Colossians 2:9  For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. 

Romans 8:11  And if the Spirit of him who raised Jsus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. 

1 Corinthians 1:9  God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Ephesians 3:12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence. 

What are learning or embracing about the wonder and fullness of Jesus’ presence as the Christmas season arrives?

Encourage someone this weekend by sharing an answer to this question. Also, consider encouraging me and others here by telling about your experience in the comments below or by writing to me at lisa@walkrightin.org

The Wonder of God’s Christmas Presence (Part 2)

Today continues a three-part series of Christmas season posts thanking God for revealing Himself to us in Jesus. 


We’ve had a stretching fall at our house being extremely short-staffed with respite/caregiving support. For a few reasons (some known and some unknown), we’ve had more difficulty than ever staffing PCA (personal care assistance) positions that opened up this summer when most of our helpers went off to college. My husband does some traveling for work also, so I’ve spent more time by myself with Carly (who is non-verbal). I’ve been feeling isolated and the physicality of her care has taken a toll on my body. Between Carly and me, we’ve spent far too many hours in physician clinics and physical therapy offices this fall. It’s frustrating to give away precious hours to appointments like this when I might spend them writing, Christmas shopping or at lunch with a friend. Knowing that God remains with me and for me stirs my courage and helps me persevere.

God has been revealing His presence among us in various ways since the creation of the universe. During the Christmas season, we remember and celebrate how very near, available and accessible He is.  Since Christmas is the celebration of God incarnate — God made flesh in the person of Jesus Christ — let’s worship reflecting on ways God has been expressing His presence to us throughout history and creation.

Psalm 19:1  The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 

Exodus 13:20-21   And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people. 

Exodus 14:24  And in the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic. 

Exodus 40:35-38  And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys. 

John 1:9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.  

Colossians 1:22 He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him. 

John 10:9-10  I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 

John 15:4  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 

Revelation 21:1-3  Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  

Psalm 16:7-8  I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
 in the night also my heart instructs me.  I have set the Lord always before me;
 because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

 
How do YOU recognize that God is near to you?  

Tell us how Immanuel is revealing Himself to you recently. Share in the comments below or write me at lisa@walkrightin.org.  


The Wonder of God’s Christmas Presence (Part 1)

I’m coming into this Christmas season wearier than usual on the caregiving front and wrestling a bit with fears about the future for our 16 year old daughter who has Angelman Syndrome.  My life, like yours, is complicated and sometimes scary.  I can’t imagine doing this life without the confidence that God is always near, holy, compassionate, powerful and sufficient for all our needs. Despite that assurance, I still struggle too often between deep gratitude for His presence and longing for a greater sense of it.


How about you? Do you sometimes wonder what God is up to in your circumstances? Have you ever fought off feelings of abandonment and asked God to show you who He is in fresh and tangible ways? Although I see evidence of God, His love and His power every day, there are still areas in my life where I am waiting to more fully understand and see Him.


During this Christmas season, I invite you to join me in asking God to remind us and refresh us in the Truth of Who He is, how He keeps moving toward us and how He makes it a priority to be available with all of his compassion and authority.  


Today begins a short series of posts meditating on Immanuel — God with us.  Let us worship together by thanking God for revealing Himself to us and by remembering how very near and accessible He is.

Matthew 1:23“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 

Exodus 25:8And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. 

John 1:14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 

Ephesians 2:19-22So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. 

Psalm 139:7-8Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there.If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me and your right hand shall hold me.

What are YOU learning about the presence of God in your life today…in this generation, during this holiday season, on this particular day in history or in this particular season of your life?  

Share with a friend, family member, neighbor, co-worker or even stranger. Tell us in the comments below or write me at lisa@walkrightin.org.  Your encounters with God encourage others and honor God.


Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from our family and the
team at Walk Right In Ministries!

God made Himself in the form of man and came to earth…and He’s STILL with us!

Does Christmas stir thoughts about life and faith for you as it does for me? For these next few days there will be excitement about gifts, gatherings and good food. While coming to the end of another year feeling thankful, many will also feel melancholy or isolated and alone. Even though Christmas is the season when we celebrate that GOD CAME NEAR, God can seem far away.

For many years, God felt far away and detached to me. I believed and hoped He was “out there” somewhere but I often wished for tangible evidence. I’m thankful that God has been deepening my intimacy with Him year after year and using the Christmas season in that process. So many of the Christmas cards we receive are reminders that God has shown Himself to us through the practical and prayerful love of community, especially during those first few years when disability was new to our family. Doing life around people who talk about how they are experiencing Jesus profoundly enriches my relationship with Him and reassures me that God is truly near, compassionate, powerful and accessible. Especially when life is hard, I need to know that God is in authority over that darkness, that He brings meaning and purpose to what seems tragic or merciless.

Glory Stories are the experiences we live and talk about that point to the power, presence and goodness of God. God uses our shared stories about stumbling and imperfect but seeking faith to shake up our perspectives, deepen our relationships with each other and reassure us that God is INTIMATELY PERSONAL and HE STILL REIGNS!

When it comes to Glory Stories in the Bible, Zechariah’s encounter with the angel Gabriel inspires me at Christmas time. It’s a beautiful example of a man whose life and lips declared the presence, power and goodness of God. The following is an excerpt from my new book “Living Your Glory Story” (available February 2014).   

Zechariah, a priest and John the Baptist’s father, prayed for years that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a child. Despite their old age, Zechariah was met by the angel with messages from God that would rock his world and bring the announcement that changes ours. 

First, Gabriel told Zechariah that his son would be great in the sight of God. And, as if that wasn’t enough, he told Zechariah that his boy would be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he was born (Luke 1:15)! Zechariah initially questioned that news and, as a consequence for his unbelief, God took his voice away (a very essential need for someone serving as a priest). Ultimately, however, Zechariah was obedient and trusted God. As a result, he was given back his voice along with a song of prophesy—a marvelous Glory Story—to shout out about the greatest rescue mission ever told (Luke 1:68-79).

I pray this Christmas brings you all sorts of beautiful and fun things—laughter, hugs, sparkling decorations, candles, nostalgic music, sweet aromas coming from the oven, games, movies, encouraging conversations—but an increasing sense of God’s intimate nearness most of all. His presence, power and goodness are REALITY. 

How can you bring that marvelous truth into your day-to-day conversations with things like compassion, enthusiasm, humility, expectancy, generosity, transparency, authenticity and vulnerability? In those exchanges, may God encourage and reassure you as well as others.

Walk Right In Ministries helps people connect and grow in Christ-centered communities. In particular, we advocate for and make resources available to people on the fringes of church engagement due to life challenges like caregiving for children with special needs. Thank you for joining us with prayers and financial support in 2013. Together, we are sharing the hope and love of Jesus Christ. There is no gift greater we can give.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Larry, Lisa, Tim, Judy, Bud, Jan, Jerry & Marilyn
(Board of Directors)