When My Expectations Challenge True Compassion

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His response caught me off guard.  My mind was racing to produce a response that would disguise my true feelings.

I called to schedule a time to deliver a meal to the family of a hospice patient that recently passed away.  The meal would be for Christmas Day.

“We plan to drop your meal off around 4:00.  Will that be ok?”

“4:00?  I guess if that’s the best you can do.”  His tone of voice wasn’t what I was expecting.

“Oh, I’m sorry.  What were you expecting?”

“I was expecting 10:00 am.”

I stammered.  10:00 on Christmas morning.  Right in the middle of Christmas morning surprises with my children.  It would be impossible.  Realizing this man and I were in completely different phases of life, I tried to be sensitive to that.  I was unsure of his relationship to the patient who had passed.  However, there was something else that was bothering me.  Some emotion, a feeling that I hadn’t expected.

“Sir, I’m preparing a fully cooked meal and it will be really hard for me to have that ready by 10:00 on Christmas morning.  I can bring it by 10:00 unprepared if you prefer.  Or I can try for about 2:00?”

“2:00 will be fine.”

Honestly, I was bothered by the response.  I had expected someone to show appreciation for receiving a cooked meal on Christmas Day from a stranger.  That wasn’t the response I received.

The response I received bothered me less than the response of my own heart.

Our expectations can set us up for feelings of disappointment and frustration.  Had I only had appropriate expectations from the beginning I wouldn’t have experienced the feelings of disappointment.  But it went way beyond my expectations.  You see my expectations were completely off-course.  I was the one in the wrong.  Not this stranger I was providing a meal to.

The Lord challenged my motives.  He refocused my heart.

As I pondered the conversation, and tossed around my thoughts on it all, the Lord whispered to my heart.

Is this for Me or for you?  Do this for Me.  When you do this for Me, there should be no expectations. 

The Lord convicted my heart.  I wanted to provide a meal.  I wanted to bless someone.  But deep down, I wanted to experience the joy in the blessing.  My motives had been called to the table, and the Lord was gracious to allow me to see it.

To show true compassion, I should serve out of love for Christ.  Period.  Regardless of anything I receive.  I should expect to receive nothing.

Christ died for the sinner.  He gave himself as a sacrifice.  For the ones who appreciated the sacrifice and for the ones who didn’t appreciate the sacrifice.  He gave anyway.  Out of a deep, profound love he gave.

Christ showed compassion to us when he hung on that cross.  In my daily life, I rarely show Him the appreciation He deserves.  Why should I expect any different in this life from others?

Our acts of mercy don’t earn favor in God’s eyes.  They come out of a place of deep love for the One who gave it all for us.  Why do I expect something from a stranger that I myself don’t give to my God who died for me?

I opened my Bible, which naturally opens to the Psalms as it is the most worn part of my Bible.  But on this day, it fell open to Zechariah 7.

“….The people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melech, together with their men, to entreat the Lord by asking the priests of the house of the Lord Almighty and the prophets, “Should I mourn and fast in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?”  Then the word of the Lord Almighty came to me: “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?  And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?  Are these not the words the Lord proclaimed through the earlier prophets when Jerusalem and its surrounding towns were at rest and prosperous and the Negev and the western foothills were settled?”  And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: “This is what the Lord Almighty says:  Administer true justice, show mercy and compassion to one another.  Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor.  In your hearts do not think evil of each other.”

I read this and paused.  What an unbelievable God we serve.  His gentle rebuke had taken the thoughts I pondered in my heart and turned them completely.

Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Lord, thank you that you love me enough to continually correct me, rebuke me, and pull me back to you.  Thank you for your word that is alive and active and speaks to my daily life.  Thank you for giving me the means and ability to serve, and I pray it comes out of true compassion.  I pray I would serve you and not me.  Forgive me for not showing true appreciation for your sacrifice.  Amen.

Merry Christmas

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This Christmas season looked different for our family.  At the center of it all, His truths still remained.  Despite a first book launch and a busier time of life than I prefer, His truths reigned in our lives.

His steady Presence provides peace to our hearts.

May you be filled with peace, love, and joy in these final hours of Christmas.  May you see Christ in your every moment.  May you experience the fullness of His grace and mercy today and everyday.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours.

Gifts for the True Gift – A Christmas Tradition

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When my husband suggested we place a 2nd Christmas tree in the front room, I knew I must have misunderstood him. This is a man who loves Christmas decorated with more simplicity and less clutter.

Before he could change his mind, we had that tree up and decorated. Yet something was missing. The gifts.

So began a new tradition…….

I’m writing at (in)courage today.  Click on over to read the rest of today’s post.

Serving the World is Easy

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As I waited in line for my premium priced mocha, I noticed a basket on the floor with a sign that read, “End domestic violence.  Donate a roll of paper towels.”  My first thought was outrage that the coffee shop actually believed something as evil as domestic violence could be ended with paper towels.  I wanted the sign written to better reflect the truth – something like “Care for victims of domestic violence by donating paper towels.”  Evil won’t end until Jesus returns and I could take this post in that direction, but I won’t.

Here’s another thought from that sign.  It’s easy for me to pay $5 for a coffee, throw a roll of paper towels in the bucket  and go about my day feeling good that I gave back in some way. Especially at Christmas when I am feeling more generous.  Maybe I would feel less guilty for spending $5 on a coffee even.  Maybe I would feel better that I had chipped away at the evil that exists or the injustice of this life.  I can walk away feeling like I did something.  It feels good to help.  And donating paper towels is easy for me.

Is there a side to this I should be aware of I wonder?  Does the ease with which I serve the world make me less compassionate to the needs right in front of my face.  The ones I have some kind of connection to and know the histories of?

You see when I serve a homeless man, I feel immediate compassion for him.  I don’t know his history, his mistakes and failures, his story.  I can’t judge him.  I simply feel compassion for his circumstances despite his history.  Sadly, when I know the history of the people in my very own life, I tend to focus on their choices and path rather than allowing myself to feel compassion for where they are right now.

God doesn’t treat me that way.  Did Jesus treat people that way?  No.  He felt compassion and offered mercy and forgiveness.

One Christmas when my children were very little, I wanted to do it all.  I wanted to help every way imaginable.  Our kids were little and didn’t need much, so we had the funds to adopt a family in need.  We provided Christmas for a family of 5.  We packed shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, we provided a gift through Angel Tree Ministries, we sent an extra gift to our sponsored Compassion child.  Basically, everywhere I saw an opportunity to bless someone in need, we did it.

While all of these things we did were fine and wonderful, they were easy for us.  It was easy for us to meet the physical needs through these ministries.  It felt good to do something tangible. To see in some small way the impact of our gift, of our sacrifice whether it was time or money. I thought I was modeling to my children the “true” meaning of Christmas.  I was.  But I had only scratched the surface.

To unwrap the gifts of Christmas, the true gifts of Christmas, should we look within our families, our neighborhoods, our circle of friends?  Not instead of serving the world.  But in addition to.

Aren’t there deep needs within arms reach?  The ones within our very own families, churches, neighborhoods, and communities?

Don’t mistake what I’m saying.  I’m not saying we should focus on our own and not help the world.  If you know me at all, you know that is not what I would say.  But I, for one, sometimes become a bit tunnel visioned.  Sometimes I just see the one thing I’m focused on and miss what is screaming for my attention.

The greater sacrifice might not appear so great in the eyes of the world.  But are we performing for the world or serving the Maker of the World?

The world recognizes when we go on international mission trips and serve in a soup kitchen. But God recognizes it all.  The mission trips and soup kitchens and the ones that the world doesn’t see.

It’s easy to serve the ones we don’t have to do life with.  There is no history, no hurt, no misunderstandings.

The harder ones to serve are the ones God has placed in our lives, in our own families even.  The ones we have histories with….good and bad.  The ones who aren’t so easy to love.  The ones who don’t find us so easy to love.  The ones who have messed up big time or have been on the receiving end of our big mess ups.  These aren’t easy to serve.

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While serving the world feels good and is necessary, I encourage you this Christmas to choose the hard road.  There is room for both.

Christmas is hope. Christmas is love. Christmas is peace. And Christmas is joy.

Offer love to one you don’t think deserves it.  One who has hurt you and disappointed you.  Has God not done that for us?

Offer love to the one you have hurt that you are unsure if they’ve forgiven you.  Or you are insecure about your standing with.

Offer peace to one who disturbs your peace.  Has God not done that for us?

Offer peace to the one you have been the cause of disruption in their life.

Radiate the joy of Christ to the one who is weighed down with regrets, bitterness, or unforgiveness.  Has God not done that for us?

When you do these, hope shines through.

The world needs us.  We need to serve the world.  But those that God has placed in our lives are there for a reason.  We need to serve them too.  It is harder for sure.  To serve God’s kingdom, we must be open to the easy and the hard.  We must be open to the ones we are sent out to serve and the ones He has brought to us to serve.

For a wonderful message on the biblical priorities of mercy, listen to this.  Christmas is a season we are more open to serving and loving.  May we seek God’s direction to the ones He wants us to serve this Christmas.  It may not look as radical as the world recognizes, but God may use it for a radical work in the hearts of his children.

 

 

Expectations of the Season

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“I can’t watch Frosty.  I’m a big kid now.”

I looked at my 5 year old and replied, “Well, I’m a big kid and I still love to watch Frosty.”  I felt this tiny twinge in my heart when he uttered these words.  A twinge that reminded me times are changing.  They are growing and each Christmas will have a different look to it.  

(A few days earlier)  “Hey guys y’all want to watch Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas?”  Flashbacks of years of watching this movie to the point of reciting lines ran through my mind.

“No thanks, Mom.”  I closed the movie case and tried to hide my face – afraid it would reveal the tiny twinge in my heart.  The one that reminded me times are changing.  They are growing and each Christmas will have a different look to it.  The oldest piped in, “Mom, it’s just that we’ve seen it so much.  That doesn’t hurt your feelings does it?”

“Of course not!”  I didn’t lie.  It didn’t hurt my feelings.  He didn’t hurt my feelings.  It’s just this darn little twinge.

I listened as my dad and step-mom discussed how it is pointless to decorate a tree when your children won’t be visiting at Christmas. Christmas looks different for them now.  I felt this twinge in my heart.  A twinge that reminded me times are changing.  They are growing and each Christmas will have a different look to it.

And the Comforter of my soul whispered to that twinge, “Each Christmas may look different, but each Christmas holds the same truths. Celebrate the truths each Christmas and you will discover the true gifts of Christmas every year.”

Yes, expect to encounter the true gifts of Christmas despite how each season presents itself. Expect to encounter Him each season and celebrate the true gift.

Christmas is hope.  Christmas is peace.  Christmas is joy. Christmas is love.

And that little twinge loosened it’s grip.

Seeking Christmas is a 7 day family devotion that guides families into intentional times of worship and activities that focus on discovering the true meaning and gifts of Christmas.  It holds the same truths for each family using it, but will look different in each home.  Your family can create your own unique memories and experiences while Seeking Christmas together through guided devotions and activities.

 

 

The Christmas Magic of Faith

“Maybe Christmas“, he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.”
“Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!”

Dr. Seuss

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When I was 4, I discovered a picture that led to me to ask my parents the question that all parents hope they won’t have to answer for many years.  Is Santa real? Having decided early on to tell me the truth when asked, they answered me honestly.  I felt robbed.  I remember for years after that discovery wishing they had just lied to me.  Wishing they hadn’t stolen that magic away from me.

They hadn’t stolen the magic, of course.  Christmas magic can’t be stolen.  It resides in the heart.  And it has nothing to do with Santa.

As a 5, 6, and 7 year old, I longed to have the belief that all the other kids around me had.  I saw this excitement and joy in their eyes as they held out for something they couldn’t see. They had a longing for something unseen.  I didn’t have that….and I wanted it.  I wanted to have faith like that.

Determined to prove my parents wrong, I attempted for years to prove that Santa was real.  I said I believed, and I played along with the other kids, desperate for a taste of faith.  They told me to stop pretending and assured me the gifts would arrive without belief.  They thought that it was about the gifts.

As a child I likely believed this too.  As I grew, and my faith in Christ matured, I realized what He was doing.

There was a longing in my heart planted by God.  A longing for more than what the eyes can see.  A longing for more than the magic of Christmas that Santa offers.  A longing for Christ.

Christmas is so much more than we wrap it up to be.  It’s so much more than the presents, parties, treat exchanges, and decorations. All of that is fun and exciting and adds to the experience of it all. But.  When we unwrap the experiences of Christmas in order to discover the true gifts of Christmas, we will find ourselves in a state of holy awe.

Christmas is hope.  Christmas is peace.  Christmas is joy.  Christmas is love.  No matter what each Christmas season looks like, these 4 remain when our faith is placed in the Unseen.

Seeking Christmas is a 7 day family devotion that guides families into intentional times of worship and activities that focus on discovering the true meaning and gifts of Christmas.  It holds the same truths for each family using it, but will look different in each home.  Your family can create your own unique memories and experiences while Seeking Christmas together through guided devotions and activities.

 

The Blessing of You

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After a full fall schedule, I sit here with few words.  Seeking Christmas released the last week of August, and I haven’t stopped until this week.  My last official event took place Thursday and Friday, so now I breathe.

The Lord has challenged me, encouraged me, and sustained me.  And He has blessed me wildly.  And not the way the world may recognize. (Remember this post?)  Seeking Christmas hasn’t broken records, topped charts, or won awards in its first season….yet I feel wildly blessed.  One of the ways the Lord has blessed me is through you.

Your words slipped into my inbox, your notes coming quietly through Facebook messages have filled my heart with encouragement and allowed me a glimpse at the work the Lord is doing in each of you.

I write to inspire and encourage….you.  I pray for you.  I connect with you when I write.  And the Lord has blessed me by bringing each of you into my life.  Writing has brought me an unexpected gift.  You are a gift and a treasure to me.

Through readers of this blog and readers of Seeking Christmas, I have come to love people I have never even met in person.  I have seen the goodness of the Lord in the lives of once strangers brought into my life through words shared, hearts revealed, and passions grown.

I sit here now watching the rain puddle on the porch- realizing I have months worth of life to catch up on.  But it can wait 2 more weeks. We are quietly seeking Christmas in our home. Each Christmas holds the same truths, yet each Christmas looks different.  Even when we are living out traditions year after year, each season may look different.

My prayer today is that we pause.  That we pause and reflect on the true meaning of it all-that we seek the true holiness of it all.  He is coming.  His birth was humble and simple, the message profound and turned the world inside out.  May he do that in our lives this season with the simple gifts of Christmas:  hope, love, peace, and joy.

Seeking Christmas is a 7 day family devotion that guides families into intentional times of worship and activities that focus on discovering the true meaning and gifts of Christmas.  It holds the same truths for each family using it, but will look different in each home.  Your family can create your own unique memories and experiences while Seeking Christmas together through guided devotions and activities.