This Christmas

Christmas reminds me of God’s grace and his awesome willingness to include me in his family. Christmas is our marker of the moment Jesus came to earth to show us how to walk as beloved children of God. He came to show us how grace works in our lives and how to be dispensers of that same grace to others.

That’s why our hearts open wider at Christmas than at any other time of year and we want to be sure everyone has the basics they need and some of the things they want, to help them feel loved and appreciated.

This Christmas is hard to grasp hold of. This Christmas seems to be the culmination of an unimaginable year of pain all around us. An endless list of prayers that, as yet, seem unanswered. This Christmas is not even as enticing with promises of sales and great gifts and tempting food with family members and friends. This Christmas is more difficult because our family always gathers to celebrate with food and laughter and gifts and love. And not just at Christmas, but usually at least once a month. But this Christmas we can’t physically come together and Zoom just cannot substitute for a touch.

And yet we’re still mindful of the grace of God and how we’ve been overwhelmed with it for another year. This grace of God is the same thing I write about through different titles. This favor God shows us, and through it enables us to excel and to soar beyond anything our minds can understand. This grace that fascinates us as we watch God open doors, prepare paths and supernaturally situate us in places created by the gifts he’s given us.

My latest book, that was published on my 70th birthday, is Created to Walk on Water. I had the title more than a year before I began to write and I had no idea where I was going when I started. What I realized is that in some of the most incredible moments of our lives, moments that make us think we are losing…we are actually winning in a way that ultimately astounds us. We are actually walking on water without realizing it. We laugh at the disciple Peter because he lost his footing when he took his eyes off Jesus. Jesus didn’t chastise him for stepping out. We do. And with that mindset, we probably keep ourselves from stepping out.

I think we need to celebrate the moment when it was working and the fact that he had the courage to step out. As you read some of my stories, you’ll find moments of your own and be inspired to write them for others to read.

From our hearts to yours. Merry Christmas!!!

Jesus

Oh. You heard me say Jesus? You might hear me say Jesus any old time.

I say Jesus when he shows up. I say Jesus when he’s slow to show up.

I say Jesus when he surprises me with grace. I say Jesus when I’m overwhelmed with his presence.

I say Jesus when he hears me. I say Jesus when he heals me.

I say Jesus when I’m lonely. I say Jesus when I’m sad.

I say Jesus when I’m happy. I say Jesus when I’m glad.

You might hear me calling the name of Jesus any old time.

My daughter said, Mom you can sure say his name.

I’m entitled.

I bear the title of Daughter. He’s my big Brother

I have legal authority to call his name.

I’m a Jesus legacy

And I promise you I use every bit of it.

Jesus in the morning.

Jesus in the evening.

Jesus when the sun goes down.

Jesus!!!

Faith

I’m thankful for faith. First taught by my grandmother and mother. I watched the older women, who could only make it to church once a month, choose communion service on second Sundays at 3 p.m. By the time their hands touched the door the tears were already flowing, their hearts’overflow of joy. Miss Vic Clark. Miss Rida Bell Billups. Miss Hattie Childs. Miss Bruce Branch. Miss Elsie Norman. Miss Juanita Jenkins. They told stories of how the Lord had seen them through, had brought them out. Helped them raise children. Powered them to work from sunrise to sunset. Strengthened them to endure the second class citizenry that denied them even being called by their own name. I believed their God until I caught their faith and came to know God for myself. I’m thank for faith.

Healing is the children’s bread

“And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭15:22-28‬ ‭KJV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/1/mat.15.22-28.kjv

This phrase danced into my heart this morning as I thought of the many friends who are not feeling so “healed” today. They are all believers in Christ, and are weathering their individual storms. But. Friends and relatives are sick. Some dying. Times are challenging. Jobs are few. Social distancing is causing all kinds of feelings. And all of us could accommodate a little healing of some sort.

So I’m sharing the scripture this saying came from. Jesus said it himself. Bread was a staple of every Jewish table in that day. It was a mainstay of every meal. That’s why Jesus proclaims himself to be bread. That’s why bread is mentioned as the thing that can’t solely sustain us. Bread is basic. Bread is universal. And so he says healing is as basic to the being of children – us – as is bread. It’s for us. It’s available. It’s part of our spiritual heritage. It’s one of the elements in our “Grace package.”

So for us who stand in need, and for those we know who stand in need. Even for those we don’t know, but care about..words of healing from the scriptures:

Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. Psalm 30:2

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds, declares the Lord. Jeremiah 30:17

My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Proverbs 4:20-22

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise. Jeremiah 17:14

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 2 Chronicles 7:14-15

I cried out. God!

God. God! If you called me, if I heard you correctly, then stand by me! Show yourself strong on my behalf. Justify me. I’ll go. But you have to make the way.

I had been in church all my life. I had been in ministry all my life. My grandmother had been superintendent of the Sunday School and her life was as that of a minister. She trained me in the same way. So by eight, I was playing for the church. By nine I was teaching a Sunday School class. I had been a junior usher at six and a member of the junior choir. Our life was church ministry. I didn’t understand that then. But when the church needed to be cleaned, my grandmother would send me to do it. I wasn’t bothered by that because I knew it needed to be done.

But by 24, I was having serious conversations with the Lord and the yearning, pulling was urging me into a direction of which I wasn’t sure. I sought counsel. I prayed. I cried. I yielded to who I believed was doing the calling. And we communed in new and brilliant ways.

Jumping over many years and tears, when I applied for seminary I only needed one more thing; a letter of recommendation from my pastor. He said No. Well, not no, but offered the opportunity to convince him of my side of the story. But the bottom line was that if it hadn’t been spoken to him, it surely hadn’t been spoken to me. Not by God.

Everything else was in and on time. The admissions officer gave me a deadline to get that letter in, as most seminary students were not admitted at that time without the recommendation of their home church. It was then that I cried out to the Lord. I was certain that I’d heard what I heard. I was certain because I kept putting myself in position to hear. And to see. And to be formed and informed.

And I needed God to be on my side. In that moment. Because the deadline was quickly approaching. And I was ready to go. I was ready to begin. I was more than ready to sit at the feet of teachers who would prepare me for the journey ahead. Teachers I hadn’t met. But I felt sure they were the ones who would pour into me and help me become a teacher.

And. God. Heard. My. Cry.

The semester was to begin on Monday. I received a call on Friday morning. From the admissions officer. I was fearful when I heard her voice. But I hadn’t needed fear. Not in that moment. What I needed was dancing feet and a joyful heart. Because God had heard my cry. She told me she would see me on Monday. She wouldn’t let one thing stop me, in the light of the other things that had been highly supportive.

I cried out to God. And he heard my cry. And the journey began.

Photo by Michael Zittel on Pexels.com

And another thing…

I wrote this book for you. I know. It’s filled with my stories, but mine is the only story I can really tell. It’s my witness. It’s my testimony. And I tell it to shout my own victory and to assist others in overcoming and realizing their own.

Sometimes we focus so much on the trials and tribulations, we miss the eternal outcome…the realization of the marvelous work God has done in each of us before the foundation of the world. Wonderfully and marvelously made. Created. Designed.

Custom design. Divine design. From head to toe. Inside out. Made to function excellently as a child of God. Made to walk worthy of the divine calling in our lives. Made to weather the life to which we’re assigned.

It is in the worst moments of our lives, we find the hinds feet with which we are equipped to walk in high places. In the worst moments, we discover finely honed gifts that operate with power under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

It is often in the worst moments of our lives, we find if we keep our eyes on Jesus, if we maintain our place in spite of the fear; if we manage to breathe in places so tight there seems to be no air, we will simultaneously discover that we are created to walk on water.

I’m thankful to God.

How about you!

Excerpted from Created to Walk on Water

Created for relationship

The “love” thing is big with me. Anyone who knows me, follows me, has read my books or heard me preach knows that. My starting point with everyone, saint or sinner, is that God loves you. You should know that God loves you. God loves you for no reason other than that he loves you. He loves you with no strings attached. He loves you in spite of what we call “behavior.” He loves you before the foundation of the world and he loves you for an eternity. 

That means there is no beginning or end to his love. That means no top. No bottom. No left side. No right side. His love cannot be contained by anything because it escapes our wildest imagination and our capacity to comprehend.

His love is indescribable. His love is matchless. His love is unconditional, which trips us up because we’re unfamiliar with any emotion that has no conditions attached. We’re acquainted with love that comes with its own stipulations. Required behavior. Required reciprocation. Required submission. Required subjugation. 

Not so with the love of God. And his love must be the standard because he is the very definition of love.

When Jesus looked at Peter, the first time, his heart was filled with love for Peter. Because he’s Jesus he could see the ulterior motives that drove Peter in his zealous political direction; he could see the skewed world view that threatened to block Peter’s conception of Jesus’ mission on earth. He could see the strong willed and muscled disciple with the ability to lead the others away if he’d really tried. He could see the furor that would lead him to sever the ear of an arresting soldier when Jesus was finally apprehended. He could see Peter uttering the phrase that would illicit a prophesied crow from the nearest rooster, declaring unfamiliarity with the Savior himself.

None of this could prevent the love that flowed from the heart of Jesus to the heart of the hard headed, stubborn fisherman, who would become a celebrated apostle in his own right and spread the gospel of heaven with keen acumen.

Because Peter had been created to walk on water.

The love thing is important because I believe the salvation thing has no place to rest if not in the lap of the love thing. It’s basic to our relationship with God through Jesus as it is to every relationship we enjoy, even that with ourselves. Salvation becomes a call to duty if there is no authentic realization that we are actually called to be who we were created to be…the object of God’s affection. 

If we don’t get the love thing, then the call is simply an enlistment to serve in the army of an exacting commander who wields rods of correction at every misstep. It’s nothing more than another way to expend energy and emotion, the reality of which we don’t even own; haven’t even experienced. Don’t even know. 

God worshiped

And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
Exodus 34:6

And the Lord spoke with Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And as a friend, Moses asked the Lord for assurance that he would never leave him on his own to command this people. God assured Moses that his presence would go with them and God would give him rest. Moses said good. Don’t send us unless you go with us. Your presence is our only distinction among the people on the earth.

Then Moses asks to see the Lord’s glory. God’s response is that Moses could not see his face, but he would hide Moses in a cleft of a rock and cover him with his hand as he passed by so Moses could only see God’s hinder parts. After performing all the ritual necessary to ascend into the presence of God, when the requested encounter actually happened, when God showed up as promised…God was so full of his “Godness” that he overflowed in proclamation of his own glory. Imagine the experience Moses had.

While Moses’ eyes couldn’t see, his heart must have almost burst with the overwhelming presence of God in its fullness. And the love of God had to rise within Moses as God worshiped himself out of the overflow of joy.


“The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”

Silence

Silence is the central place of faith, where we give the Word back to the God from whom we first received it. Surrendering the Word, we surrender the medium of our creation. We unsay ourselves, voluntarily returning to the source of our being, where we must trust God to say us once again.

In silence, we travel back in time to the day before the first day of creation, when all being was still part of God’s body. It had not yet been said, and silence was the womb in which it slept.

I wish I’d written this. But I didn’t. This is from “The World of Silence” by French philosopher, Max Picard.

In Christ

“In Christ.” Some folks have difficulty with that phase. I find great peace in it. “In Christ.” It’s where I’ve always longed to be. I just didn’t know it. It’s where I find the legitimacy I’ve always yearned for.

In Christ. It’s not always an easy place because it demands of me a kind of honesty and transparency that is most times uncomfortable. It’s not always an easy place because it relieves me of the mask I wear in many places. It’s also uncomfortable because when I’m really drawn, I can’t pull myself away.

Actually I don’t want to pull myself away. I find myself enjoying heaven in a way that sometimes threatens to hold me.
In Christ. That place I’ve yearned for. In Christ I find identity.

In Christ.