|Posted by Lisa Elliott on July 29, 2017 at 11:45 PM||comments (0)|
Years ago I found myself struggling with something that I just assumed was as simple as that—a struggle. I was facing circumstances in my life that I wanted to be different. There’s nothing wrong with that, right? If only my circumstances would change, then I’d be happy! Now that was a problem.
I shared my struggle with a very close friend who, in turn, called me out on it. She told me that what I was actually struggling with was not, in fact, a mere struggle but an ugly attitude called discontentment. Ouch! Then she said something that landed squarely on this heart of mine. “You’ll never be content where you’re going until you’re content with where you are.”
My friend’s words hit their mark. I gave some humble thought and consideration to them before taking them to my prayer closet for further exploration. Although it was hard to face the truth, my friend was absolutely right! And as I allowed this simple truth to move in and penetrate my heart, it became evident that the Lord wanted me to tuck it away for safe keeping. Not only for that moment in time but for years to come. (Of course, the Author of my heart knew that I’d have to face the same kind of struggle over and over again in a variety of situations and circumstances down the road.)
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, contentment is: feeling or showing satisfaction with one’s possessions, status, or situation. Oxford Dictionary defines it as: A state of happiness and satisfaction.
For the record, contentment does NOT mean complacency. We can be content with “what is” while still desiring more of what God has to offer us. However, He wants us to first find absolute joy and contentment in Him—void of people, places, position, or possessions.
So then, what is at the root of discontentment? And why do we struggle with it so? (Notice, I’m including each of you in this equation knowing full-well that it’s something we all struggle with from time to time.)
I don’t know about you, but what stirs my discontentment in many cases is wrong focus. Focusing on and comparing myself, my gifts, my resources, my abilities, my looks, my problems, my possessions, my relationships, and my circumstances with what others have or what others are doing or what others think or approve of. And as I have personally committed and recommitted various situations to the Lord over the years (twice on Sundays) I can see how discontentment not only feeds, but breeds: anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, self-pity, and so many other hungry beasts. (By way of warning, and speaking from personal experience, social media can breed this wrong focus.)
When we give in to discontentment we begin to listen to lies such as: I’d be content if only…
If only I could be married.
If only I was able to bear children.
If only I could be rid of that person or this situation that’s causing me so much trouble.
If only I had more money, more time, more energy, or more freedom.
If only I lived in a different place, a bigger place, a prettier place.
If only I was retired.
Meanwhile, if only we realized that by focusing on and consuming ourselves with those things we don’t have, or circumstances we want to be different we miss out on blessings that are right in front of us. Our prayer closet becomes overwhelmingly consumed by what shouldn’t be in there in the first place! And in turn, we are robbed of the joy and happiness and fulfillment that Jesus intended.
If only we were content!
What are some situations you’re facing that is breeding discontentment in your heart? Why not take some time to commit them to the Lord right now? Take it from my friend; you’ll never be content where you’re going until you’re content where you are.
Straight from a Contented Heart,
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength…And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:12, 13, &19).
|Posted by Lisa Elliott on July 29, 2017 at 11:40 PM||comments (0)|
Ever played God? Let me rephrase that? Have you ever gone beyond simply letting your requests be made known to Him, like we read in Philippians 4:6-7, and told Him how He should be conducting a matter? Instructing Him on how to be God? (Is. 40:13, Rom. 11:34, 1 Cor. 2:16).
You know the matter I’m referring to. It’s the one that fills every corner of your prayer closet. It’s that all-consuming request that keeps you awake at night, welcomes you to breakfast first thing in the morning, and keeps your adrenalin pumping, your heart racing, your head pounding, and your blood pressure escalating throughout every moment of every day. It’s the matter that your best friend anticipates and braces herself/himself for every time you speak with one another. It’s the prayer request that is so all-consuming that you have no room in your mental or emotional space for anything else, much less any room for the Lord to enter into the conversation about it? Yeah. That one.
Furthermore, how do you respond when the Lord does enter the conversation? What if He doesn’t seem to see things the way you do? What if His response is not what you want to hear on the matter?
I’ve come face-to-face with this all-consuming dilemma as recently as today! And I have to admit, it’s as much of a challenge today as it was when I first learned it—eight years ago when my son, Ben battled leukemia.
The antidote I discovered is found in the account of Jesus’ late arrival to prevent his friend Lazarus’ death (John 11:1-47). I speak further about it in my book, Dancing in the Rain. It’s in the context of a brief conversation between Jesus and one of Lazarus’ two sisters. A woman I’ve grown to know and love. This conversation took place between Jesus and Martha. And it holds a powerful truth worth sharing.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Martha obviously believed in Jesus’ ability to perform miracles. She believed God was able. She knew He could have prevented her brother’s death. She just didn’t quite comprehend why He hadn’t. And no doubt the matter consumed her. But thankfully she had a change of heart. Or perhaps it was more of a change of mind—a surrender. She uses two simple, life-changing, perspective-renewing, mind-transforming words that indicate this heart surrender: “Even now.”
Like Martha, during the year my son was sick my fervent and all-consuming prayer was that God would heal him. However, the Lord used Martha to show me the balance between believing that God could heal Ben but—even if He didn’t—still be worthy of my faith in Him. Surrender: a “not my will but Thine be done” moment. And that changes everything.
The fact is God can do anything He wants to do. Nothing is too difficult for the Lord (Jer. 32:17). And, in fact, over and over again we read that with God all things are possible (Matt. 19:26; Luke 1:37; 18:27). It’s a truth that those listed in Hebrews 11’s Great Hall of Faith knew and trusted in although “They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance (Heb. 11:13).” It’s a truth that Martha obviously believed in and one that I’ll never forget. But one I need to be reminded of often. As Steven Curtis Chapman so well puts it in one of his songs, “God is God and I am not.” Hmm. A profound truth isn’t it?
I don’t know what that all-consuming prayer request of yours is. But let me assure you that even if God doesn’t change your circumstances, He can certainly change your perspective as you simply let Him be God; surrendering your will in exchange for His—even now.
…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Rom. 12:2b).
MercyMe – Even If (Official Lyric Video) – YouTube
|Posted by Lisa Elliott on June 8, 2017 at 9:10 AM||comments (0)|
I took a walk one day recently. It wasn’t just any old walk. It was a walk where I saw things I hadn’t seen or noticed before, or at least not for a very long time. It was a walk abounding with exciting sights and sounds. It was a walk full of rich adventure and awe inspiring new discoveries. It was spectacular. There were paths to explore, treasures to find, and wonders to behold. It was a walk I experienced while holding the hand of my twenty month old grandson, Seth.
We were blessed to host Seth and his mom (my daughter, Natalie) in Ontario for a week-and-a-half while they awaited entry into their new home. Our son-in-law, Josh was starting a new job and therefore, remained in Manitoba with his parents. Given that most of my time with Seth takes place over Skype, I treasured every earthly moment I had with him for what translated into moments of heavenly bliss.
Everything from morning snuggles, to “Paw Patrol” viewing, to intense hockey tournaments, to park tours, and of course no day would be complete without nightly bath time fun. As wonderful as every moment we shared was, perhaps my most treasured moments were spent in the forest behind our house. The forest became “our” place. There in the forest something magical happened. The first time we ventured out alone into our nature’s nook, Seth, who typically bounded ahead, suddenly surprised me by reaching up and tenderly placing his tiny hand in mine. Side-by-side we walked in silence along the wood-chipped strewn pathway.
Experiencing God’s creation in a state of childlike wonder brought me to my knees—quite literally—as I would crouch down beside Seth and we’d strategically stop, look, and listen to all the sensations around us. It was if the Lord Himself was putting a pause on the special moments we shared—just the two of us; giving us opportunity to touch a butterfly that had landed gingerly on the limb of a bush. Chasing a red-breasted robin and giggling with delight as it kept just far enough ahead of us to tease. Reaching up to grab hold and shake a flowering apple tree branch while the pale pink and white blossoms fell; adorning us with a delicate veil and filling our nostrils with aromatic fragrance. Savoring flowers to bring home to Mommy. Galloping like horses along a wooden bridge as if a castle awaited us on the other side. Standing on a wooden dock and taking in the essence of spring under the vast open blue skies. Taking full advantage of a prime opportunity to throw stones and listen for the Ker-plunk as they free fell into the water. Spotting a mother mallard with her eight ducklings and pointing his finger to make sure I saw them too. Discovering a forlorn tree house tucked away from the path under a canopy of vines and broken limbs. In hushed silence, listening intently to the rustling leaves and chirping birds (silence being yet another miracle from a two-year-old standpoint).
Seth’s childlike wonderment awoke something in my heart that can be easily forgotten as we grow into adulthood. Seeing this piece of Eden through the eyes of Seth filled my mind with more wonder than I can express and more joy than my heart can contain.
Much like when my own four children were young, I found myself soaking in the pleasure he was experiencing. Capturing irreversible memories in my heart and tucking away moments for easy access into years to come that will otherwise be quickly dissolved into the next.
As I opened my heart’s treasure box to store each memory I couldn’t help but think of King Solomon. He had been-there-done-that in every aspect of life. To the degree that he lost the wonder of it all. Everything became meaninglessness and vanity of vanities. Because there was nothing new under the sun, everything became futile, worthless, unexciting, boring. How sad is that?
Lord, may I never lose the wonder of it all. May I forever be reminded of that glorious day when I took a walk.
Have you lost your sense of wonder? Why don’t you consider taking a walk with a toddler today?
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)
|Posted by Lisa Elliott on June 8, 2017 at 9:05 AM||comments (0)|
I realize this is not the season to be asking the following question. But do you recall the most famous reindeer of all? You know—the one who didn’t quite fit in with the status-quo? Does your heart ache like mine when Rudolph’s own parents hide him away—ashamed, embarrassed? Does it pang something deep within you when you see his public humiliation? Do you feel his pain when he and his small band of misfit friends eventually find themselves on the Island of Misfit Toys—all longing to belong somewhere with someone who understands them and loves them scars and all? Perhaps some of you can identify with these misfits more than you’re willing to admit.
I remember, like yesterday, that misfit feeling. In fact, I could take you to the exact spot on the schoolyard tarmac where, for the first time in my life, I felt rejected—like I didn’t belong. I can picture the faces and rhyme off the names of the so-called friends of mine who gathered in a tight-knit circle in the middle of the playground—excluding me from their reindeer games. No doubt you have your own sad tales of misfit stories to tell.
Although the writer of Hebrews tells us we’re all foreigners and strangers on this earth (Hebrews 11:13). While Jesus Himself said that He was not of this world and neither is anyone who would follow after Him (John 17:16). And as much as we know that ultimately those who love Jesus belong to Him will never quite fit in here, it doesn’t disqualify any of us from the need to belong somewhere, somehow, to someone.
I’ve most recently discovered a place where I belong. I found it through a weekly ladies Bible study group in association with Bible Study Fellowship. And what a group it is! Next to my time alone with the Lord exploring His Word through scripturally-guided, thought-provoking, and soul-searching questions, my favourite part of this particular Bible study is the time we spend in our small group discussion. There’s never a dull moment as we draw our Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) and God’s Word sharpens our spiritual axes. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword”, (Hebrews 4:12).
Not only does God’s Word sharpen our spiritual senses, so too does the fellowship we experience: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Week by week, I can hardly wait for us to share the many ways the Lord has shown up in each of our lives; things He’s taught us, ways He’s tested us, questions He’s challenged us with, how He’s used us, discoveries He’s uncovered within us, circumstances He’s bestowed upon us, truths He’s entrusted to us. My soul is ignited, my mind is challenged and my heart is stimulated as God breathes His life into our midst.
Tears, laughter, heartaches, joys, struggles, challenges, victories, confessions, words of encouragement and more are all contributing factors to the bond that has grown between us. In the afterglow of our time together God often gives me the privilege of a more intimate peek into some of the hearts of these women through one-on-one conversation. I leave each week feeling spiritually charged, personally encouraged, socially refreshed, mentally fortified, emotionally exhilarated—spurred on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).
Phew! That’s a lot of good stuff taking place in a two hour period!
The thing is, void of their nametags, I have no clue really who any of these women are! Although we meet in the church where my pastor-husband and I serve, none of them attend our church. In fact, I couldn’t tell you what church they attend. While some basic information leaks out from time to time, we really don’t know each other at all!
We’re all a bunch of misfits! If the Apostle Peter were here, he’d describe us as a peculiar people (1 Peter 2:9), and yet somehow I belong with them. Women, like me, on a spiritual journey. Women hungry for truth in their innermost being (Psalm 51:6). Women who are sincerely excited about what God’s doing in their lives. Women with whom there is a mutual affection, a common understanding and passionate love for God’s Word and how it applies to our lives (Romans 12:10). Like-minded women after God’s own heart (Philippians 2:2; 1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). This is the environment in which I thrive! It’s not a Bible study I attend. It’s a place I belong!
How about you? Where do you belong? What does belonging look like to you? What kind of environment do you thrive in? What gets your spiritual battery charged? What kinds of people encourage you in your walk with the Lord and sharpen your spiritual senses?
Why don’t you take some time today and:
“…consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
|Posted by Lisa Elliott on March 15, 2017 at 2:10 PM||comments (0)|
We all need purpose, don’t we? Purpose is what gives us a reason to wake up every morning. Purpose gives us energy and zest for life, significance and meaning. For some, purpose is found in accomplishing tasks and making “to do” lists. While for others, like me, it’s found in perhaps less tangible and more heart-impressionable ways. It’s the being rather than the doing that ignites something deep within me. There’s something that charges my battery when I find heart-connections that resonate with my soul.
Having opportunity to speak truth, hope, encouragement, and inspiration into a solitary life over a cup of coffee, through an email, over the phone, from a speaking platform or as a result of my writing gives me utmost fulfilment. I find purpose by engaging in meaningful conversations that go beyond standing in the church foyer discussing what a person’s having for dinner. It’s feeling like somehow I’ve made a difference in a person’s life. Ultimately, purpose comes from being where God wants me to be, doing what He’s gifted me to do and finding a true sense of joy in doing it. It’s living in the moment. It’s relishing and finding pleasure not only in those things that put a smile on others’ faces, but on the heart of God—for His glory and good pleasure! (Philippians 2:13). I learned these principles from the best—right within my own family!
Purpose was never more clearly defined for me than it was through my son, Ben the year he battled leukemia. Over the course of that year Ben initiated several “purpose-driven” conversations. The first one took place one day as we drove our hour-long trek to the cancer treatment centre. Out of the blue, he said, “Mom, let’s just say I’m gone in a year.” Likely noticing my sudden struggle to keep the car on the road he quickly went on. “I’m not saying I’m going to be gone. I’m just saying if I’m gone. The reason I don’t think I’ll be gone is that I don’t feel that I’ve accomplished God’s purpose for my life yet.”
After giving myself a couple of minutes to re-calibrate our route, reign in my emotions, and allow my thoughts to register, I spoke. The first indication that my words were God-given was that Ben agreed with them! (LOL) To be honest, my response even shocked me! I told him that I wasn’t confident that any one of us is born to fulfill a singular purpose. But rather, God gives us each and every day to live purposefully.
I could almost see the steam rising as Ben’s thoughts percolated. As his ideas were formulated they spilled out of him. Things like signing up for a computer course as soon as we got home and taking piano lessons. And what did I think of him doing some Webcam Bible studies with the youth group he could no longer be part of due to his compromised immunity. From that moment on, Ben chose to live his life purposefully—right until his death a year later. To the extent that in his final weeks of life he and his dad used the hospital white board to write a list of things he wanted to do, people he wanted to see, and things he wanted to say before he died. He spent significant time writing notes to those he loved. He hosted a group of friends and asked them questions pertaining to the future he knew he wouldn’t be a part of. He planned his funeral including downloading songs he wanted played. Perhaps one of the most purposeful things he did took place ten days before he died. He shared a powerful, ten-minute, hope-filled message with our church family that is now posted on YouTube
The purposeful attitude that Ben took on inspired what eventually became the subtitle of my first book, The Ben Ripple, Choosing to Live through Loss with Purpose. And then formed the base for my second book, Dancing in the Rain, as me and my family were left to follow in Ben’s footsteps and choose life and find purpose each and every day through our unfathomable grief. Challenging? You better believe it!
The bottom line is that none of us is guaranteed tomorrow. However, sometimes it takes a life-altering experience to shake up our priorities and wake us up to see the things that matter most to find true purpose and meaning in life. When the end draws near, things become clear. We are all terminal. Death is imminent for all of us. However, the question is not how you and I will face death, but rather, how we’ll choose to live our lives with purpose for the time we have left? Feel free to start today!
“Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10).
|Posted by Lisa Elliott on February 24, 2017 at 12:55 AM||comments (0)|
Many of us in the Christian circle have heard and can perhaps even recite Jeremiah 29:11 that says, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” But do you know for sure? Can you say it like you mean it? In other words, are you absolutely convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that God truly has plans for you that won’t harm you and, in fact, will prosper and provide you with a hope and a future?
Although I’ve claimed this verse personally and have spoken this message with conviction, from a speaking platform several times, every now and again I’m challenged to put it to the test in a fresh, updated, new and improved kind of way. The challenge usually comes in the form of a pursuit to consider, a decision to make, or a risk to take that requires not only a step, but a leap of faith in order to grow more deeply in a trust relationship with the Lord. And I’m forced to put what I’m preaching into practice.
After taking the necessary time to consider the Lord’s invitation wooing me into a world beyond my comfort zone and I take into account the ways things could unfold I finally, but tentatively surrender my will to the One who holds my future, the Keeper of my heart. However, I don’t submit without a fight first.
“What ifs” take up residence in this heart of mine. “Don’t touch that.” and “That’s mine!” escape my heart’s doors as the Lord begins moving furniture around in the living space of my heart. While He places lamps in all the dark corners to illuminate and bring clarity, resistance stands in His way. The next thing I know an unwelcome houseguest called “fear”, who with no regard for my heart’s well-being, tromps through its sacred places, closing the blinds, locking the doors, sealing all the exits, unraveling my peace, tossing truths aside and replacing them with doubts that cramp the living quarters of my vulnerable heart.
As the walls of my heart close in, self-inflicting thoughts assault me and shame overshadows my faith. Ghosts of my past appear out of nowhere impaling me to everything that once was. My age and the stage of life become excuses that restrict my freedom. My hurts, shattered dreams, and disappointments restrain me. And in those moments I begin holding on more tightly to things I deem important, asking what God is asking me to surrender at His feet or put on the altar of sacrifice this time. It’s usually then that the verse from Jeremiah echoes through the chambers of my heart. And the still small voice of the Spirit of God speaks. “Lisa, do you trust me?”
The thing is I do. And I have. With my ministry, my marriage, my children and with my life! However, I’ve lived enough life to have my trust tested. I also know that living in submission to my Heavenly Father’s will doesn’t necessarily mean a care and pain-free existence!
I recently came across a quotable quote by C.S. Lewis that puts words to the fear I’m describing. Lewis says, “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”
Ain’t that the truth? The fact is, in every situation in my life, God’s faithfulness and His loving mercy have led me, His rod and His staff have comforted me. He has guarded my heart and mind with His incomprehensible peace. In His presence I have found unspeakable joy! So my heart can say a resounding, “Yes!” He has a plan for my life. A plan to prosper me, not to harm me. A plan for a hope and a future! I simply need to trust Him with my life, regardless of how painful it is. His plans are always for my good! And ultimately, that good is to make me more like Him!
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me...I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.(John 14:1 & 27 NLT)
|Posted by Lisa Elliott on February 23, 2017 at 1:05 PM||comments (0)|
Waiting is challenging isn’t it? It’s especially problematic if your spiritual gift, like mine, is impatience. But in reality, most of our life is spent waiting. In fact, statistics tell us that on average a person will spend an estimated 45-62 minutes waiting every day. If you do the math, that means that if you live to the age of seventy, you will have spent up to three years of your life waiting!
Think about it, we spend countless hours waiting our turn, waiting in traffic, waiting for the light to turn green, waiting for appointments, waiting for certain circumstances in our lives to be over, waiting for direction. Some of us are waiting to get pregnant. Some are waiting for their prodigal to return. Others are waiting for test results or pending news. In some cases, we’re waiting for things that may never come!
We find ourselves waiting for the next season of our lives as if somehow the next one will be better than the one we’re in! Even when it comes to the seasons in a year, we can’t wait for Christmas. Once it’s behind us, we can’t wait for spring. Then we can’t wait for the warmth of summer. And when the summer heat hits, we can’t wait for cooler weather again.
My grandfather used to say, “As a rule man’s a fool. When it’s hot he wants it cool. When it’s cool he wants it hot. Always wanting what is not.” Isn’t that the truth?
When my kids were little, I couldn’t wait for them to get back to school in the fall so that I could reclaim my territory and gain back a semblance of routine. Now that they’re grown, there are days when I can’t wait simply because if I do, I’ll forget what I was about to do! Most days I can’t wait to get to heaven!
So why are we in such a hurry? What is it that we are waiting for? Is there something we should or could be doing as we wait? Rather than wait? Why wait at all?
The fact is no one likes to wait. But sometimes that’s exactly what God wants us to do. And in fact, it’s what He requires us to do. Isaiah 40:31 says, “…but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (ESV) Some versions replace “wait” with “trust”. And isn’t that what it’s all about? Isn’t that why we find it so challenging to wait? Because to do so, means to relinquish our control over circumstances in our lives—realizing that most circumstances are completely beyond our control. And who doesn’t want control?
God is more interested in the process than the product. Paul reminds us that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus (Philippians 1:6). And He’s apparently in no hurry to produce it!
So in the meantime—where we all live—hanging in the balance between where we are and where we’re going, like Jesus, we need to set joy before us and consider Him who endured the cross. Because in exchange for our weariness, God gives us His strength to endure and as we fix our gaze upon Him, He renews our perspective. And when we find that, there is nothing better. Take it from me, it’s worth the wait!
For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay (Habakkuk 2:3).
|Posted by Lisa Elliott on February 1, 2017 at 12:30 AM||comments (0)|
Often during the Christmas season, amid all the hustle and bustle that goes with deliberating, shopping, purchasing, and returning Christmas presents, it’s easy to lose sight of Jesus’ Christmas presence. And in so doing, we forfeit the greatest gift of all. If we’re not intentional about setting apart time with the Lord, the “reason for the season”, something or someone else will inevitably take the time from us. In case you haven’t noticed, “Someday” never appears on the calendar. So, I thought I’d help you be intentional about practicing His Christmas presence with my own rendition of the old familiar, festive tune and gift you with, The 12 days of Christmas Challenge” (to be used pre or post-Christmas):
On the 1st day of Christmas…delight. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart (Ps. 37:4).
• Make it a date! To delight in someone means to experience great joy and pleasure in his or her presence. Obligation is opportunity with the joy sucked out. So turn your time with the Lover of your soul into a time you look forward to.
• Designate a God-space – Choose a comfortable chair or a favourite location to spend time with the Lord
• Create ambiance – Open your Bible as you curl up with a warm blanket and your favourite hot drink. Light a candle, and play some soft worship music.
On the 2nd day of Christmas…focus. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil (Prov. 4:26-27).
• Remove distractions: unplug your phone, turn off the radio and television, pull the blinds.
• Take 15 minutes to de-clutter your quiet time space, tidy up the kitchen, or whatever needs attention so you can give God your undivided attention.
• Set a basket by the place where you plan to meet with the Lord and include in it: Bible, devotional book, journal, pen, paper, highlighters, Kleenex, day planner.
• Make a worry list – Write down anything that distracts you as you focus on God’s Word. For example, “Put roast in oven at 3:00.” Out of mind and onto paper!
On the 3rd day of Christmas…meditate. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful (Joshua 1:8).
• Read a passage of Scripture. Stop reading when something stands out at you.
• Ask: What does it say? What does it mean? What does it mean to me?
• Commit this particular verse or passage to memory.
On the 4th day of Christmas…be honest. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge (Ps. 62:8).
• Prayer walk
• Fast and pray
• Pray God’s Word
• Purchase a journal. Make the first journal entry your own psalm in the form of a letter to the Lord. Express your personal concerns, heartaches, sorrows, fears, or any present circumstance or challenge you are facing. Once you’ve got that all out of your system, list some of your joys, hopes, dreams and praise.
On the 5th day of Christmas…listen. He wakens me morning to morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught (Is 50:4b). Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Is. 30:21).
• Choose any book of the Bible and read it in one sitting.
• Take note of and highlight words, verses, or entire passages that stand out to you.
• Record any question you need answered, truth to absorb, promise to claim, instruction to heed, command to obey or challenge to face with His help.
On the 6th day of Christmas…linger. Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! (Is. 30:18) Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him (Ps. 37:7)
• Once you’ve enjoyed some time in the Word and in prayer, ask God if there is anything He’d like to add. You may be done speaking, but He might have more to say!
• Turn your prayer into a two-way conversation. For example: God: Write the passage that strikes you in your own words. You: Write down your response to His Word.
• Record whatever action you need to do as a result of your conversation.
On the 7th day of Christmas…get personal. You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain…For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, Your eyes saw my unformed body; How precious to me are your thoughts, God! when I awake, I am still with you. (Ps. 139)
• Read Psalm 139 or another passage of Scripture that has personal meaning to you and personalize it. Insert your name and apply it to a specific situation you’re facing.
On the 8th day of Christmas…watch. He richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment (1 Tim. 6:17). Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, (Js. 1:17).
• Watch for and record any evidence of God’s presence around you: conversations, joy-nuggets, creation, occurrences, encounters, blessings, special or significant moments.
On the 9th day of Christmas…reflect. this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lam.3:19-26)
• Make a timeline of your faith journey. Mark highs and lows and significant events. Record all the ways you’ve seen and experienced God’s faithfulness throughout your life from birth to today. Ask: 1) What has God done in the past? These things I recall 2) What does He want to do? Therefore I have hope 3) What is He doing? Great IS His Faithfulness. Remember: His mercies are new every morning!
On the 10th day of Christmas…praise. He inhabits the praise of His people (Ps. 22:3). Let everything that has breath praise the Lord (Ps. 150:6). Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise (Ps. 100:4).
• Begin a joy journal today!
• Make a list of all the things, people, or circumstances you have to be thankful for.
On the 11th day of Christmas…“be”. Be still and know that I am God (Ps. 46:10).
• Make a “to NOT do list (and don’t forget to check it twice!)
On the 12th day of Christmas…practice His Christmas presence! Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:22-25)
• Decide on something you can do today to put God’s Word to practice.
• Consider and prayerfully choose a verse you could focus on this coming New Year.
Merry Christmas… Straight from the Heart
|Posted by Lisa Elliott on February 1, 2017 at 12:25 AM||comments (0)|
As we know, this month we celebrated Remembrance Day. It is important to take time to “remember” those who fought for the freedom that we experience today. Remembering is an important part of our ability to not only be reminded of but to appreciate our past. Remembering is therapeutic and brings healing as we laugh over funny events or cry over sad ones. Remembering keeps a piece of our past alive.
With this in mind, it seems appropriate to tell you about a timely Facebook message I received the other day that gave me my own cause to remember. It was from one of my son, Ben’s best friends when Ben was alive. He felt impressed to share a significant memory he had of him and Ben. It was inspired by something I wrote a while back about how to break the awkward and uncomfortable silence that people face when they have lost a loved one.
As I read his recollection, my heart was transported to another time, and yet it was as if it happened that morning! I could visualize it. I could feel it. I could even hear Ben’s voice along with it. My senses were fully alive as I breathed it all in. It was as if a part of Ben was resurrected in that moment. A part of Ben I wasn’t even aware of and one that I could only see through the eyes of his friend. Through my tears I felt my heart begin to smile as I basked in the sweet memories of the particular event that had been so sensitively shared with me.
I have regular opportunities to share our journey through Ben’s illness from a speaking platform. On one occasion I was asked if it digs up my grief and the pain of my loss to have to share about Ben’s life and death. My response was simple, “There’s nothing to dig up. Memories of Ben are complete and instant recall, just at the mention of his name.” And, in fact, it helps keep my memories alive to hear his name! You see, the only memories I have of Ben are those that were already made. There won’t be any new ones of him. That is a grief all on its own.
One of our greatest fears after Ben passed was forgetting about him. We were, therefore, desperate to uncover some ways in which we could honor his memory. The following are a few ways we either came across or put into place ourselves. Making memories and honoring our loved ones is very personal, and therefore will be different for everyone.
Christmas will be here before we know it. As it approaches, “DON’T FORGET about those grieving the loss of a loved one. Consider putting to use one of the following practical tips:
CREATIVE WAYS TO HONOUR/REMEMBER YOUR LOVED ONE
• Make a picture album or scrapbook of family memories
• Create a display area in your home
• Make some kind of special garden
• Plant a tree
• Fresh flowers next to a special picture
• Think of something you can do to celebrate special occasions (birthday, Christmas etc.)
A special meal
Serve your loved one’s favourite snack
A Christmas ornament
• Special picture frame with special picture
• Develop a charitable event (golf tournament, marathon, concert, etc)
• Set up a fund that will go toward others in a similar crisis Eg. We have a BENevolent Fund we use from proceeds from “The Ben Ripple” as well as funerals my husband performs.
• Write a letter to the deceased
• Create a special memorial room
• Write a song
• Find a special place for significant personal items (favorite hats, watch, blanket)
• Make a CD of your loved one’s favorite music
• Invest in a candle or lantern that can be lit on special occasions or “missing moments” to acknowledge your loved one’s absence.
(Excerpt from, “The Ben Ripple; Choosing to Live through Loss with Purpose” p. 183)
Memories are a gift from the Lord. Without those memories, we lose sight not only of people and events of the past, but also of God and His faithfulness in those moments in time. That’s really what I want to remember; God’s faithfulness. How he provided. What He accomplished. Where and how He led me. Lessons He taught me. Much like Moses told the Israelites to do .
When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today (Deuteronomy 8:10-18).
Lest we forget!
|Posted by Lisa Elliott on October 5, 2016 at 4:20 PM||comments (0)|
Do you get excited about autumn? I do! For me, this season of the year is, in many ways, more of a fresh start than January. As a child I remember getting excited about the first day of school with my brand new outfit, fresh pencil crayons, and unblemished notebooks. As a young mom raising four children I also got excited about the first day of school; but for different reasons. It was the day when I “reclaimed my territory” after having my kids along with their herd of little friends under my feet all summer long.
Fall is also an exciting time because it’s when we reap from our gardens all that we’ve sown, planted, and tended to throughout the spring and summer months. As a newly married city girl, I was privileged to serve alongside my husband and be welcomed among a friendly farming community in our first pastorate. As this group of people opened up their hearts and homes to us, not only did I reap a storehouse full of godly wisdom but also a wealth of practical household tips that included canning jams, fruits, and vegetables. Wouldn’t you agree that there’s something exhilarating about plucking fresh, crisp carrots out of the ground that you planted as a tiny seed months before? Then experiencing the joy of serving them to your family knowing that you played a part in producing them? Seeing the fruit of your labour is an incredible thrill!
In those early and fruitful years of ministry I met the Lord of the Harvest over and over again! It was while living in that community of believers that I obeyed the Lord’s command in Genesis 1:27 to be fruitful and multiply. I crafted a cross-stitch sampler of the Proverbs 31 woman that kept me focused on the household under my care in a very tangible way through those years of sowing into my children’s lives. I have been blessed over and over again at the harvest the Lord has and continues to produce.
I met the Lord of the Harvest (Matthew 9:35-38) when we bought our first home. Our neighborhood was ripe for the picking as the Lord allowed me to play a part in one neighbour after another entering into a personal relationship with the Lord, Jesus.
I’ve reaped the benefit of a fruitful harvest of godly and faithful friends through the years that are still blooming and growing to this day! Some have planted and others have watered as the Lord has caused my relationship with Him to grow (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).
If you’ve followed me for long, you know that I’m a visual and very tactile person. I like to physically live out some of the truths that the Lord and I are working to imbed them in my heart. So, I’ve taken very literally a “fruitful harvest” approach to my fall this year. (I think Jeremiah and I would have gotten along quite well.)
For starters, I’m choosing to more intentionally add more fruit and vegetables into my diet every day throughout this season. Besides, providing great nutrients and health for my body and mind, it’s also good for my soul—with each bite, praying the Lord of the Harvest. I plan to provide for my family this fall by cooking up some hearty vegetable soups and sweeten them up with some homemade apple pies!
I started this month out by reading Galatians, the book of the Bible where the Fruit of the Spirit is found. I then focused on the ways that I need to be producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self – control (Galatians 5:22-23) in my day – to – dailies.
One day I fasted and prayed while I made salsa. Another day I pickled beets praying that I would not become weary in doing good, knowing that at the proper time I will reap a harvest if I do not give up (Galatians 6:9).
At every opportunity, I dawn a bracelet that a dear friend and sister in the Lord gifted me with during my son, Ben’s battle with leukemia. It has nine coloured gems—each one representing one of the fruit of the Spirit. It reminded me that as I planted myself by streams of water, daily investing in my relationship with Jesus that even during that year of drought I would not cease to bear fruit (Jeremiah 17:8-9). I wear it to church and also to speaking engagements; praying that God will produce lasting fruit as I sow the seed of His truth into hearts.
As I commence this new season of harvest, considering the vast wilderness that I’ve explored these past seven years since my son’s death, along with living through the desert expedition of a huge ministry transition, and more recently wandering through a sun-scorched land amid even more loss and crises that have taken place in our family’s life, I have taken Psalm 107:35-38 to heart and made it my prayer. It says, “He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs; there he brought the hungry to live, and they founded a city where they could settle. They sowed fields and planted vineyards that yielded a fruitful harvest; he blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased, and he did not let their herds diminish”.
You see, I have learned the secret of producing fruit that will last. It’s choosing to remain in the Lord—the Vine, in His love, and in His Word (John 15). Thanks to God’s gracious provision, I’ve been blessed with over thirty years of fruitfulness in ministry, in my family, in my marriage, and in my personal walk with Jesus. And I don’t know about you, but I want my life to continue to be fruitful and productive even into a ripe old age!
We reap what we sow (Gal 6:7b). What are you sowing? You’ll know by the fruit that you produce (Matthew 7:17-18). Why don’t you take some time as you enter this fall season to consider some ways that you can be more fruitful. While you’re at it, why don’t you listen to this throwback tune by the Imperials, “Lord of the Harvest”. Take some time to listen to the words and pray concerning your part in the Lord’s vineyard