Happy New Year, friends! I hope you had a blessed Christmas. Mine was busy and beautiful, exhausting and exhilarating, full of family, friends, food, and Jesus.
Two days after Christmas I spent many hours removing the ornaments and lights from my Christmas tree. Then there was the Great Pine Needle Sweep-Up of 2018. I do love a live Christmas tree, but along with the its beauty comes a bit of work. Honestly, I think I swept up enough pine needles to make another small tree. My husband dragged the tree out into our woods where it will become a hiding place for small critters. Although my mantel still has winter decor on it, most of the traces of Christmas are gone from my home.
On the same day that I took my tree down, I came across a poem by Howard Thurman (1899 – 1981) that has taken up residence in my heart. I’m not usually a poem kinda girl, but this one velcro-ed itself to my heart and so today I share it with you.
For many people (at times, myself included), Christmas is over when the decorations are stored away. After reading this poem, I’m convinced that we do Christmas, and all it means, a huge disservice when we mentally tuck it away until next December. In truth, Christmas was only the beginning…..
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.
For Jesus, Christmas was only the beginning. In His short 33 years He found the lost, healed the broken, fed the hungry, released the prisoner, and so much more. His earthly mission began on Christmas, and He left the Holy Spirit here to enable those of us who follow Him to carry on His mission. In doing so, we point others to Christmas….to Jesus.
As we journey into a new year I am seeking to take the work of Christmas along with me rather than boxing Christmas up until next December. I want the ears of my heart to listen intentionally to the words of others with the goal of making certain that person is really heard. My desire is to point other people to Jesus and His wonderful, life-changing Word. I want to do life face-to-face with people rather than through a screen and a keyboard, and I want to speak life into their souls. If God allows, I will take the work of Christmas into 2019 through loving, mentoring, speaking, coaching, writing, and serving my family, friends, and clients. I will write and speak and coach and wife (is that even a word in that sense?) and mother and mentor out of the overflow of Jesus living in my heart.
So, today my question for you is how are you taking the work of Christmas into the New Year?
Hearing from you is a sweet blessing to me. Leave a comment below and share your answer with me and other readers. If you are reading this via email, please click HERE to be taken to my website where you can leave a comment.
Happy New Year, friend!
One way you can take Christmas into 2019 is to sponsor a child living in poverty. Compassion International is the way that I have chosen to do this. Click my affiliate link below to find out more. If you are reading this via email, please click HERE to be taken to my website where you can see the banner.
I have had a long struggle with JOY.
There…I admit it. Joy and I have had a tenuous relationship over the years. I know it is not the sort of thing a Christian is supposed to admit, but I am done with Sunday school Christianity. I want to be real and transparent before you and those who circle my life. Although it has been a long while since I wrote a post for the Authentic Christianity series, today’s post is definitely a great fit for that series.
I know all the Bible verses about joy….all 150 or so of them, according to my Bible study tools app:
You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. ~~ Psalm 16:11 (NKJV)
These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. ~~ John 15:11 (NKJV)
This one makes me wonder if my joy-bucket has holes in the bottom of it!!
Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. ~~ John 16:24 (NKJV)
And then there is this gem…..
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, etc.. ~~ Galatians 5:22 (NKJV)
My ‘joy’ tree is sparse on fruit sometimes, let me tell you.
I look at people who are always ‘up’ and bubbly-happy and all ‘it’s a great day to be alive’ and think “I’m not sure what drugs you are taking, but I need a dose”. It’s not that I am chronically depressed, it’s just that I sometimes (okay, well maybe, often) see the world and the glass as half empty. I lean toward the pessimistic side of things, although I will usually tell you that I am more of a realist.
So, with that spilled out all over you, I want to tell you about something I have been doing all year in 2018 to encourage joy in my heart. I will confess that I have waited almost 4 months to share this to make sure it was going to be something that I made into a habit.
I use a Passion Planner for my calendaring needs. Late in 2017 (like, December 31st) the Lord gave me the idea of writing down at least one blessing that came my way every day…..kinda like a blessing journal. I called it “Each Day, 1 Blessing” and decided to write the blessing on my planner. So, at the end of each day I choose one thing from that day that was a blessing or joy to me and write it on the bottom of that day’s calendar page. Some days are easier than others. Some days a blessing or joy jumps right out of my heart and onto the page, while other days, honestly, I have to mine pretty deeply into the events of the day to find something that blessed me.
Here are pictures of some of my entries.
This exercise forces me to intentional about looking for blessing and joy in my life. The things I enter are sometimes BIG things like helping to find sponsors for children in poverty, but other times they are ordinary occurrences in my day like a beautiful sunset. Each entry is a reminder of God’s goodness in my life. This is one of the ways that I am being intentional about CHOOSING to grasp joy for my heart.
How do you encourage joy in your heart?
Do you struggle with joy or some other fruit? I would love to hear from you about your struggle and how you navigate it. Leave me a comment or email me at [email protected]
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A few years ago I went to the funeral of a woman I had known all my life. I wish I could say I remember her fondly, but the truth is, I don’t. The memories I have of this woman consist of her saying very ugly things to some of my family members. Often when she saw us in public, she would turn her head so she did not have to speak to us. She was highly critical and downright mean with her words where my family was concerned. In spite of the bad history, I have forgiven her for her actions toward my family.
When the funeral service began, both preachers who delivered the eulogy talked about what a wonderful encourager this lady was to those in her church and community. They spoke glowingly of her generosity to those in need and her love for Jesus, her family, and her church. The pastor informed us that he was reading her favorite Bible verses which had been taken from her apparently well-marked Bible. Her memory was honored by the speakers with glowing words of praise for her character, generosity and love for the Lord.
I was in total disbelief.
I had this insane urge to scream right in the middle of the service.
In fact, it was all I could do to keep myself from standing up and saying, “Excuse me, I must be at the wrong funeral. I don’t know the person of whom you speak. Don’t mind me. I’ll leave now.”
I maintained my decorum, smiled kindly at the family, got in my car and shrieked to the teddy bear that rides in my back seat, “I CANNOT STINKING BELIEVE WHAT I JUST HEARD!”
It was the most bizarre thing I have ever experienced. I go to the funeral of one person, but the person who is eulogized appears to be a totally different person. I kept pinching myself, but I know I was at the right funeral. All the family was there, but for the life of me, I did not recognize the person of whom the pastors spoke.
The Lord used this to drive home a lesson in my heart. If you know me at all, you know that the topic of LEGACY is my hallmark message. It is what I write and speak about. (www.leahadams.org/legacy) My desire is to leave a godly legacy for the generations that come behind me, and to help others learn how to do this as well. I want others to look at me and see Jesus.
In the midst of all that was going on in my head during this funeral, the Lord reminded me that it is so important for me to be consistent in who I am; to be the same person on Monday or Friday that I was on Sunday. The Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said, “Leah, do you want people at your funeral to not recognize the person being described because you presented one face to one group of people and another face to another group of people?”
“NO! I do not want that,” my spirit groaned.
So, how do we accomplish this consistency of person?
I would submit to you that we find the answer in Galatians 5: 16 (NLT),
“So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.”
There is no way to escape differences of opinion and personal preferences in this life. We are all unique people with unique desires and tastes. In spite of this, if you and I name the name of Christ over our lives, we serve the God who is unchanging. He never has a bad day, never gets mad and walks out on us, never chooses to ignore us when we don’t act the way we should. Yes, He is just and holy, but He is also merciful and loving.
If we have God’s Spirit living within us, in the midst of disagreements, we can be still be loving and kind. When someone does something that does not please us, we can still be patient and offer grace. Oh, WE cannot do it in our flesh, but the Holy Spirit can do it through us. Because Jesus, the One who is love, light, peace, gentleness, grace and mercy, can help us to be the same person on Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday or Saturday that we were on Sunday in church. His love can shine through us…..if we will allow it.
Is there a consistency of person in your life?
If you died today and could write your eulogy, would the people who attend your funeral recognize you?
What would you hope would be said about you?
Who are you when everyone is looking?
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Perhaps I am just getting old….or maybe 53 years of breathing earth’s air has planted a bit of wisdom and caution in my heart. Whatever the cause, the wariness I feel toward social media these days is very real and a cause of legit concern. Our devices are impacting us in so many ways that are good, but also in an equal number of ways that are not good. Today, I want to ponder the selfie phenom that has taken over our world.
Let me state at the outset that I am NOT pointing a finger at anyone with this post. If the shoe fits your foot, then wear it. If it doesn’t, leave it in the box for someone else to put on. I am simply sharing what the Holy Spirit has been working in MY heart.
Have you ever looked up the definition of a ‘selfie’? Check it.
Selfie: an image of oneself taken by oneself using a digital camera, especially for posting on social networks.
In my heart, there is a great deal of discomfort with this ‘selfie’ obsession that has invaded social media. Have you ever Googled the word ‘selfie’? Sweet mercy, I did not just fall off the turnip truck yesterday, but what I saw shocked me. It is incomprehensible to me that people would take such pictures of themselves…AND POST THEM ONLINE. It is also hugely disturbing to me the sheer number of ‘selfies’ that many people take and post to social media in a 24-hour period.
An article published by the American Marketing Association in November 2015 entitled, Social Media Triggers a Dopamine High, tells us that there is a physical component to social media. Who knew? The neurochemical dopamine, known as the ‘reward molecule’ is “released after certain human actions or behaviors, such as exercising, or setting and achieving a goal.” Apparently social media activity is also a trigger for the release of dopamine according to a study of Australian consumers.
“Every time we post, share, ‘like,’ comment or send an invitation online, we are creating an expectation,” according to the AMA study. “We feel a sense of belonging and advance our concept of self through sharing.”
Nowhere is this more true than with selfies. Although the word ‘selfie’ is a relatively new one, the impetus behind the action is an age-old one. Obsession with, and glorification of, self. Taken to the extreme, that’s what a ‘selfie’ is…and it runs so counter to God’s desire and command for His children.
Let me clarify one thing, please. I am not talking about the occasional family/friend/group picture. Those are great, and I totally enjoy seeing them. Even the occasional ‘selfie’ posted to social media is acceptable. What I have become so leery of is the repeated pictures of self that are posted to social media. Five, ten, twenty or more ‘selfies’ in a day.
John, the beloved disciple, said that Jesus must become greater, but I must become less. (John 3:30). Paul emphatically stated that ‘to live is Christ’ (Philippians 1:21).
As Christ-followers, we are called to humble ourselves, look like Jesus, and ultimately, draw other people to Him. If my calling is to point others to Jesus, it is virtually impossible for me to do that when I am so focused on taking a dozen pictures of myself each day so that I, and others, can see my face on social media.
Psychologists have discovered that, taken to the extreme, the ‘selfie’ craze can lead to a psychiatric problem called body dysmorphic disorder, as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder. According to some studies, more than 3 selfies in a day might signify a mental disorder. Seriously!!
Hebrews 12:2 tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus, and Him only. I fear today’s ‘selfie’ obsession places self in the spotlight and dethrones Jesus in our hearts. Remember the definition of ‘idol’….anything that takes the place of, or occupies more of our heart than God is an idol. Y’all, I want my relationship with Jesus to be what other people remember about me rather than endless selfies that point to Leah.
I wonder if it is time for us to examine our motives in the area of ‘selfies’ and social media? Why are we posting selfies? What is our reason for being on social media? As I have done this self-examination recently, I decided that, for me, the right decision was to delete Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat from my mobile device. I’m not saying that decision is right for you, but for me, it was the right move. And you know what? To my surprise, I don’t really miss them. You may recall that my #OneWord365 for 2018 is ‘Christ-like’. I believe that as I seek to make much of Jesus and less of Leah I will become more like Jesus.
I would love to hear your thoughts on selfies and social media. Would you share in the comments?
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Two days before the calendar flipped to 2018 I stood among a standing-room only crowd in a tiny south Alabama Congregational Methodist church at the funerals of my husband’s uncle and cousin. On the 22nd of December, 94-year-old Uncle J, 93-year-old Aunt K, and their only living child, 75-year-old E were on their way to dinner near Mobile, Alabama. A woman in a pick-up truck had apparently already side-swiped another car before careening further down the wrong side of a four-lane highway. She hit our family members nearly head on before her truck burst into flames, killing her at the site of the accident. E, who was driving, tried to avoid the truck, but swerved just enough to take most of the impact on her side of the car.
Uncle J died at the scene. E was taken to the hospital where she underwent a couple of surgeries, but eventually died late on Christmas Eve from the trauma. Aunt K suffered a fractured sternum, broken ribs and other non-life threatening injuries. Her body should recover, but her heart is broken from the loss of her daughter and the man she had called ‘husband’ for over 75 years . Before I tap out another word, you need to know that these are three of the most precious Christian people I know.
As I stood in that church and listened to Uncle J’s nephew on the other side of his family offer the eulogy, I was touched by two things he said about Uncle J and E. As he reminisced, he told those of us in the church about Uncle J’s handshake. It was the handshake of a man who was a Southern gentleman. Firm enough to let you know he was serious about life and his handshake, yet not so firm that it hurt. Uncle J had developed dementia in his later years, yet his nephew shared that the handshake was still there, although it might not have been exactly like it once was. I have long been convinced that a handshake tells you a lot about a person.
While I do not recall ever shaking Uncle J’s hand, my memory of him over the 23 years that I have been part of the family is one of a true gentleman and gentle man who always had a twinkle in his eyes and a smile on his face. He was a retired civil servant who gave a lot of years of his life to his country. He lived in a brick home in the middle of cotton and peanut fields that he often farmed. The standing-room-only crowd was a beautiful testimony to the love that South Alabama community has for Uncle J, Aunt K, and Cousin E.
My memories of E are just as vivid and precious. She had a smile that would light up a room, and according to many in the church that day, E gave wonderful hugs. Her oldest daughter shared this fact with me in the hours after E met Jesus face-to-face. I can agree with them, having been the recipient of a few of E’s hugs. In fact, Uncle J’s nephew mentioned those hugs in his eulogy, which tells me that E was generous with her magnificent hugs.
If you know anything about me, you know that my jam, my heartbeat, is legacy…the legacy we leave each day for those who circle around our lives. Part of Uncle J’s legacy was his handshake that said he was a man of his word, a man of character and integrity. He was a faithful husband and a loving father, grandfather, and great grandfather. His handshake and life told you that he was a diligent worker and faithful Christian. Cousin E’s beautiful smile radiated the love and care of Jesus to all she met, and her hugs were God’s way of bringing comfort to many people, as well as a sense of being cared for by someone very special. Neither of these folks ever stood on a big stage, spoke to large crowd, or heard the call of fame or great fortune. Yet, they leave a legacy that will reverberate for generations.
All evidenced by a handshake or a hug.
I’d say handshakes and hugs are mighty fine pieces of a legacy, wouldn’t you?
My heart would be so appreciative if you would pray for Aunt K and for Cousin E’s three adult children and their families. I am so thankful that Jesus walks with them on this new journey.
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Perhaps this post has you thinking about your legacy. You might want to change the life of a child in poverty through a Compassion Child Sponsorship. Please use the links below or on my side-bar to do that. Maybe you want to learn more about creating and leaving a godly legacy. I wrote a Bible study just for that. Click here or the link below to check it out.
“God never wastes a trial.”
If I had to choose a motto for my life, this would be one of my top five. You might think, “why in the world would you choose a motto about trials?” Great question! You see, sometimes the most seemingly ridiculous things end up being beautiful and good. Let me explain.
Imagine that I had one of those moments where my life flashed before my eyes and I was blessed with the benefit of seeing a panorama of events, both good and bad. I would see moments of love and joy, sidled up next to moments of pain and heartache. I would see stellar life choices that I made, but also some amazingly poor choices that brought great sorrow and distress into my life. You, too?
But, let me tell you the beautiful thing in all of this hot mess that is my life. God never wastes a trial or a heartache. Every poor choice, every time those choices brought pain. Shoot! Even when my choices are good and right, there is the opportunity for God to bring something beautiful and useful out of a heap of ashes or bed of roses. AND HE DOES! I’ve seen it time and time again in my life.
Case in point! Years ago I shared about my decades-ago struggles with loving a family member in this video. Frequently, when I speak to women, I have the opportunity to share this same story. I cannot even begin to count how many times women have come up to me and said, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one who felt that way!” Just last week I had the privilege of coming alongside a beautiful young woman who is walking this very path in her own life. I pray that I was able to speak encouragement into her heart in regard to loving a family member when all you feel is anger toward them.
It is in those moments that the truth of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 comes alive:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
I cannot resist giving you verse 4 from The Message:
He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.
It is true, y’all…..God never wastes a trial. He has purpose in them. He has good in them. They may not feel good or purposeful. You may just have to grit your teeth and think, ‘this too shall pass. It is passing like a kidney stone, but I have faith that it will pass…and that God will somehow redeem it.”
Even as I type this post I am walking a path where another person is slandering my character and reputation with lies and twisted truth, yet I keep trusting that God’s got it and that one day I will be able to use the comfort I am receiving from Him to comfort another person going through similar circumstances.
Do you have a 2 Corinthians 1:4 testimony? Sister, God did not allow difficult circumstances in your life for no reason at all. He has purpose in them, but you must walk by faith toward that purpose until you can see it with your eyes. If you can see above the circumstances to the good that God is working in your heart, are you willing to share it to encourage other people? I would love to read how God has comforted you in a difficult situation so that you can turn around and comfort others going through similar situations. Would you share in the comments or via email?
God never wastes a trial!
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Here is the link to a book that has brought me great peace in times of trial and trouble. I encourage you to check it out.