O Holy Night!

| December 23, 2012

“The Manger Scene” drawn by my little kindergartener

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine! 

“O Holy Night” is my favorite Christmas song. Whenever I hear it, my heart grows within me. I think it’s that amazing final crescendo of “OH NIIIIIGHT DIVIIIIINE” that grips me, every time. And, when it’s sung with perfect pitch and power, it’s truly breathtaking. Today, my church‘s talented music team led us in praising God to this beautiful work of art. The lead singer was flawless in hitting those notes and her passion for Christ behind the lyrics was clearly evident.

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O’er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend! 

But, this morning at church, something new grabbed my attention as we sung this carol. I don’t remember ever hearing the version we proclaimed: “Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. And in his name all oppression shall cease”. The words surprised me, because although this has been my favorite Christmas song for many years, the purposes of God in my life for abolitionist work is fairly recent. So, with my eyes opened wider to the injustices of our modern world, my song rang out in praise to God… and also in prayer for those around our world who are captives. May God set them free! And, not just free from physical chains. But, may this prayer be for any who are bound with sin’s soul chains that trap them from the true freedom that can only be found in Christ! What a beautiful freedom He offers!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

I felt a little bit like this morning’s worship was a prelude to heaven. Wow. We get to praise this God, forever. The only God that came to us to draw us close to Himself.
No matter what your Christmas is turning out to be, I encourage you to look to Jesus.  The King that “In all our trials (was) born to be our friend. He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger.”  ”His power and glory ever more proclaim!” We truly have something wonderful to proclaim! The Savior of the world, Jesus Christ came just for us! Thank you, Lord!
John 3:16

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

| December 6, 2012

I’m not the first girl to rave about “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young. But, I’ll take my turn.
I heard references to this book, repeatedly, for over a year before actually purchasing a copy. It seemed it was coming up everywhere. Numerous women I admire referred to it… wherever I went, it seemed! Once, I heard Sarah Young on the radio and her message deeply touched my heart. So much so that I actually pulled it up online and printed out the excerpt that she had read on the radio.  For months, I kept it with me for daily encouragement. I still have it in my Bible.
It’s been since April of this year that I’ve been reading the devotional, each day. Since the Spring, I’ve purchased copies for numerous dear friends and family, hoping they will find the same encouragement, inspiration and daily drawing to Christ that I’ve experienced because of reading it. It’s become a common bond: “Oh! Did you read Jesus Calling, today?!”
I feel as though I am seeing a side of Christ that I hadn’t allowed myself to draw close to, before. Now, I read about the realities of His holiness, but it is through the amazing lens of GRACE and LOVE that leads to a joy-packed, adventure-filled life! Each day reads as if Jesus, Himself, sent me a love letter.  I am able to see the heart of God in a wonderfully open way.  I know. I know. This isn’t scripture and we can’t take every word literally. I’ve read the critics’ posts. But, I do believe that God has breathed all over these daily messages!
Another special thing about this book.  When I read the scriptures referenced, I see shiny new facets of God’s connected meaning strung all together, throughout the Bible. (*Flawed human alert here! Don’t read this next sentence unless you are willing to believe that this pastor’s wife is not so perfect that I get great glee and deep meaning out of EVERY reading of God’s word.)  In the past, I’ve found myself skipping over scripture references in some devotionals or Bible studies… i.e. not doing the extra digging.  It’s because they reference scriptures that say the exact same thing I just read in the exact same way or they seem to be “pulling at straws” in scripture to make a point. These references seem like time wasters and quickly lose my attention and therefore my ambition to page through books and chapters to find them. Not so with Jesus Calling!  I’ve found the scriptures listed are actually fun and exciting to read because they don’t just support the day’s reading, they build upon it. I admit, they also lead me to areas of scripture that I’ve personally highlighted in my Bible, before.  And, God has used those just as much to encourage me in this faith journey. In most instances, it seems like God is showing me one thing and then leaping to another that brings the first truth to an even deeper understanding. It’s totally worth looking them up!
For instance, today I read, “Stay ever so close to Me… What I search for in My children is an awakened soul that thrills to the Joy of My Presence! I created mankind to glorify Me and enjoy Me forever. I provide the Joy; your part is to glorify Me by living close to Me.” Oh, the beautiful, welcoming heart of God! Then, I got lost in Colossians, finding reminders on how to live a life worth living that can only take place out of a heart filled with Jesus! Wow! It seems most days I read exactly what I need to soak up and apply.
Thank you, Sarah Young, for writing this book that has affected so many lives in my own little world! I can only imagine how God has used it in personal and private ways that you will only find out about in heaven!
What about you, dear one? Have you read Jesus Calling? What did you glean from it?

First Day of Kindergarten

| September 4, 2012

Since before college, I had my life planned out.
I would graduate with a bachelor’s in psychology, get married to a handsome pastor, have two babies and stay at home raising them -just until the youngest went to kindergarten. THEN, I’d either go back to school for my master’s degree or begin a meaningful career. I love helping people… so counseling has always been a dream. But, I’d love to be a writer, and I thought maybe I could pursue that. Or, I would pursue a different kind of education and build on my art skills. No matter! I had lots of time to figure things out!

Life’s Check List
Marry handsome pastor – check!
Birth two beautiful kids – check!
Stay home to raise the wee ones – check!
Send off baby to first day of Kindergarten – check! (as of this morning)
Direction for what to do now – uhhhhhh?….

I don’t really have anything figured out.
My little boy is having the adventure of his life at his first full day of kindergarten. Gone from Mom. All new friends. Lots to take in and learn. I encouraged him to be brave. To have anticipation for the good in it all. To go in with a positive attitude and then just see what God can do! He has no idea what this day or this school year will bring. But, he’s pressing on and into all of it.
I’m all for God-adventures. I want the full life! I believe adventures can only be true adventures if they are a little scary, a little exciting and (at least) a little fun! I’m sure that’s what my kindergartener is experiencing on his first-day adventure.
Me? I’m at home with a lot of mixed emotions. I have a bunch of questions. I miss my boys but I’m excited for what’s to come. I have an adventure of my own to begin. Schooling & a full time career aren’t even on my radar. I’m a bit scared about life’s details, but I know I can trust God for every one.
To start, I think I’ll just take a little time to enjoy a quiet house. To rest. To seek after God’s heart and His real direction for me. To do some of the things I’ve had on the back-burner for a while. I think I’ll just give myself a teeny bit more time. I’m thankful for today and all the possibilities.
What about you? What does the start of this new school year mean for you?

Lost and Found Bible

| June 8, 2012

Wanna hear a cool story? It’s over 8 years in the making!
Back when I was 17, I bought myself a brand new (expensive) Study Bible. I think it was like $65, which was quite an “investment” for a teenager in the 90′s! As a brand new Christian, I brought this Bible to church and then faithfully plopped it on my nightstand to sit… until I went back to church, again. (Maybe you know what I mean?) After graduation, I brought it with me to Guatemala on my first missions trip. I shared a devotional, for the first time ever, to our team across the world. I remember it vividly, in the yard of a women’s prison, sharing about the plan of God in Isaiah 61:1-4 – which have since become true life-verses for me. I brought it along with me to Bible College and really started reading it. I mean I studied it. I underlined it. I highlighted it. I read the study notes to figure out what it was really saying. I made notes in it, myself. The more I read from it, the more I began to really understand it.  I read it during my early years of marriage. I spoke from it in our early years of church ministry. I looked to it for encouragement through the hard times. I found passages to share in cards with those I loved. I memorized scriptures. One scripture, in particular, was Psalm 23. I spent more than an hour reading it and re-reading it, scared to death and all alone, during a dark night when my husband was away. God met me through those words and I fell asleep, at peace. As the years went on, I noted the verses that meant something special to me by writing the date or short thoughts, alongside.  I read it as my new baby boy slept next to me, in the early, weary days of motherhood. This Bible was my lifeline to God, and had become a spiritual journal of  sorts.
Then, I lost my Bible.
I was sure I must have left it at a hotel in Milwaukee. I called there. They didn’t have it. I asked everyone I knew to look around for it. It was nowhere to be found. I prayed that God would somehow return it to me. But, it never showed up. Finally, I bought myself a different NIV Bible. But, I didn’t write in it. I didn’t highlight it. It wasn’t MY Bible. I investigated other versions and have been reading from those throughout the last eight years. But, I always missed my first Bible.
And, then my prayers were answered!

My long-lost Bible - an answer to prayer!

Last night, my Mother-in-law surprised me with my long-lost Bible. She said that a women found it in her church’s decorating closet! Can you believe it!? For eight years it’s been shuffled around a church I’ve only attended a few times. God knew just where it was, all along.
I’m so thankful for my mother-in-law returning my Bible to me. I’m so grateful for Jen, a woman I don’t know, who “came across my Bible” and thought I “might want it back.”  I’m so thankful to God, for answering my prayers. All these years later, I have a greater appreciation for this book and the history written on it’s pages. Absence makes the heart grow fonder… and appreciate much more! What great care He has for each of us! Thank you, Lord!
Do you have any fun stories about answered prayer? I’d sure love to hear them!


| May 9, 2009

Change the World


Before my oldest son was born, I would pray, “Lord, make him happy, healthy and whole.”
Before my youngest son was born, I would pray the same, but add, “And help Him love you all the days of his life.”
Now I simply pray, “Lord, Make us world changers!”
You see, to be world changers, my sons will need to be totally in love with Jesus. They will need an utter dependence on Him, alone. It won’t really matter if they are “happy, healthy and whole.” God alone provides true joy. He uses the sick. God uses the broken.
I trust Him with their lives. I pray that I can be a true example of Jesus Christ. No matter what it means for any of us, I pray for us to have His abundant life! That we will go after God with our whole hearts and follow Him wherever He leads and do whatever He asks us to do.
Live for Jesus. Change the world. That is our mission. That is my prayer.

Come Alive

| April 27, 2009

“The glory of God is man fully alive.” -Saint Ireneaus

Sara Groves “Just Showed Up For My Own Life”Sara Groves “just showed up for my own life”

Are you really living? I can honestly say that I’ve just started to truly come alive. There’s a difference between knowing something in your head and knowing it in your heart. I finally believe, with all my heart, that Christ loves me and He has a special purpose for me, every day of my life. A growing realization of who I really am, in Christ, has been changing my life. Understanding who He made me to be is allowing me to glorify Him in new ways.

I glorify Him because of who I am. I am His creation, a unique woman who has individual interests and value aside from any of the roles I play in my life. I am also Nathan’s wife, the boys’ mommy, a writer, an artist, a photographer and an up-and-coming modern day abolitionist. I’m a Christian who thinks that living for Jesus is more about what I do in Him, rather than what I shouldn’t be doing in the world. I can say now, what I wouldn’t have said just over a year ago, “I AM a world changer.”

A part of what he’s using to glorify Himself is my realization and acceptance of who I am not: the stereotypical pastor’s wife (there isn’t a “typical pastor’s wife”, by the way), an amazing cook, the girl who other people might think I am… and most importantly, who I was yesterday. What freedom!

I pray the same for you. Seek after God. Receive His love and accept that you ARE valuable! He made you with a special purpose that only you can fulfill. I encourage you to glorify God by coming alive in Him! It’s the only way to live!

Part of Me

| April 27, 2009

Ethan smeared peanut butter crackers all over his face.

E smeared peanut butter crackers all over his face.

I don’t realize how much of my mom is in me, until I’m doing the exact same thing she used to do.

Today, my boys were still hungry (or “hoogree” as E says). They had just consumed their breakfast, and were asking for more. The trouble was, the cupboards were crying out for groceries louder than my boys. (Yes, TODAY I will get to the store!) So, I had to be creative. For me, that means I had to find something that doesn’t come already prepared in a colorful package.  

Ah ha! I decided on saltine crackers with peanut butter on them. It wasn’t until I was spreading that smooth layer over each cracker that I remembered that I, myself, ate these concoctions as a child. I probably haven’t eaten one since the 80’s, when my own mom served them to my brother and me. It made me smile to realize that she met my needs in the exact way that I was, for my own boys, today. I’m sure that when my mom prepared those crackers in our small apartment kitchen, she didn’t imagine me doing the same thing for her grandchildren, someday.

I wonder what kinds of things my boys are picking up from me that they will someday replicate for their own children. I sure hope that they are picking up more than just menu ideas.

I pray that, by God’s grace, they are witnessing a genuine example of Christ. Although I’m a woman filled with human flaws and failures, I hope that they sense that I am relying on God’s power and Spirit to be all He desires me to be. I pray that I am worthy of their imitation (1 Corinthians 4:13).

My mom is a neverending song in my heart of comfort, happiness, and being.  I may sometimes forget the words but I always remember the tune.  ~Graycie Harmon