The Miracle of God With Us

magic of Christmas, miracle of Christmas, miracle of God with usHis name is Jesus. Emmanuel. God with us. Eternity with God is here. 

We can get stuck believing forever with God begins once we are buried. But I want to challenge you to see God with us, Emmanuel, today. When life’s burdens have you buried, God is reachable right where you are. You don’t have to wait. The active presence of God is available when you ask. Life with God, eternity, is accessible now because of Jesus.

Eternity begins when you believe. The magic of Christmas is this miracle of God with us.

“That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” – Luke 2:8-14

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 NIV

Warrior On In The Wait

Waiting takes the most vulnerable parts of us and puts them to the test. In this place between the death of a dream and anticipating the arrival of a new one, is a battleground of learning how to trust God.

waiting, advent, season of waiting, ChristmasAdvent is all about waiting. We anticipate the arrival in these days leading up to the birth of our Savior. Advent is the question and Christmas is the answer. Jesus is the response to our pleading howls in the night.

Our tears tell the truth, it’s hard to celebrate in the wait. When we feel rejected or forgotten by God, this kind of brokenness can keep us in bondage to emotions of longing and loneliness. Yet, it’s in the long days that God leans in. “I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.” Isaiah 45:3

When we quiet our thoughts and emotions that compete with God’s attention, we find in the stillness this profound grace of His presence. These painful places of waiting can offer a glimpse of the face of God if we let them. When we don’t feel very merry, Jesus offers us mercy. He holds the power to fill what’s empty, mend what’s broken, and find what’s lost.

“It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.” 1 Peter 1:3

Can you relate to a season of waiting? The yearning is very real here. Strangely, the strongest thing we can do when we feel stuck is to surrender. It takes more strength to let go than to hold on. The death of one thing brings life of another.

While we wait with eyes of faith, Hope sustains a burdened and weary heart. In the weak places is where Jesus releases His power. It’s okay to grieve in the wait without giving up on God’s promise. Peace can come from just knowing the Author and Creator has a plan.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

“And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:11

When it feels like Heaven has pressed pause and Earth has gone silent, face your fear of being alone and embrace this quiet place. The still, small voice of God speaks louder to a heart in the silent nights.

It’s easy to blur our focus of God with busy schedules this time of year. We might drown our days with distractions in hopes that the noise will suppress the sadness of the season. Time won’t heal the wound; only Jesus can.

You get to decide what your focus will be. If you shift your focus from the object of your wait to the One who forms your faith, you find this rich place of communion and healing. His companionship is meant to do a work in you before God goes to work through you. When you seek more of God with your thoughts, your words, your walk through His word, the scene changes.the gift of grace, grace

You might be waiting on a miracle or maybe you’re just waiting on an answer, if you believe God is for you then this time won’t go to waste. When you trust God with the desires of your heart, you can surrender your ways to His will. Here’s a few ideas on how to wait well in this season of Advent:

  • When you’re tempted to sulk in the pain, pray for someone else who might be suffering. Out of the overflow of God’s grace for you, you can give this same grace to others.
  • Encourage your mind by recalling the ways God has been faithful in your life. 
  • Start in the Word and thank God for the promises He has already made to you. Then thank Him for the fulfillment of those on their way.
  • Ask God for a renewal of your thoughts, the root of joy which is this Hope and lasting change in the deepest parts of your heart. 
  • Surround your soul with community.

“So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then.” 1 Peter 1:13-14

What situation in your life are you giving more attention to than your devotion to God? Your soul will be most satisfied when you are where God wants you to be. I pray that what is right and good and worth believing will outshine these days of darkness and brokenness that’s within and around us.

His love is stronger than the death of your dreams – even IF things don’t turn out better than expected. Do you believe that? Do your actions and words believe that? Keep this moment here close because the sun will shine soon and you’ll need this reminder of what God has done a year from now.

What are you waiting for?

Faith Moves You Forward

The holidays can bring the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The pressure reveals the best and worst of our emotions. Depression. Anxiety. Loneliness. Worry.

My therapist once told me that depression is living in the past without God and anxiety is living in the future without God. If worries have you wrapped up during the holidays, one way to shrink these woes is with worship. Raising up praise releases the pain.

faith moves, When you lift up your hands in surrender, you let go of all you’ve been holding onto; your finances, your relationships, your job.

We don’t worship because all is good. We worship because Jesus is good. His character is good. We can worship because His Word is good! He says, “He works all things out for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

You can give your realities a glance, but our Heavenly Father is worth your stare.

If you want freedom this Christmas season, take control of how you feel and surrender it to your faith, “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.” Isaiah 54:17

Walk by what you know, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

Faith is what will move you forward.

“Remember your promise to me; it is my only hope. Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles. O LORD, your unfailing love fills the earth; teach me your decrees. You have done many good things for me, LORD, just as you promised.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭119:49-50, 64-65‬

Surrender in the season

peace, the presence of peace, fruit of surrenderDuring Christmastime we find ourselves tempted to abandon Christlikeness in favor of lists and lines. The season that centers around a silent, holy night, the star and a Savior being born quickly becomes the season in which we overspend, overeat, overindulge, and overcommit. We can get caught up in all the activity that the only gift we have to share with those we love the most is a very chaotic version of ourselves.

Your choice to slow down and soak up His presence can change things this year.

Do You Have Joy or Optimism

What's the difference?

Reality rarely looks like the resolutions or wish lists we write out. Between the lines, rejection will sting, stumbles can leave scars, dreams shatter and sorrow turns to tears. Sadly, we can waste years staying stuck in a moment.

Optimism tells us things will be better tomorrow. Whether that happens or not, optimism cannot control the circumstances.

Joy on the other hand does not come from these kinds of positive predictions. Joy doesn’t depend on what actually happens. It will show up in some very dark places, because nothing can change the fact that Jesus has overcome the world. Joy is not happiness. Joy is the fruit of hope.

Sometimes we interchange ‘hope’ and ‘wish’. Even the dictionary says the two words are synonyms, but hoping and wishing are just as different as joy and optimism.

A wish is a desire, a longing, a request.  

Hope is a confident expectation of good things to come. It’s the promises of God in his Word that bring us this hope. Hope believes the solid ground of God’s grace and the gospel of Christ is enough. Hope steadies itself on trust that God is for us and his faithfulness will not fail us.

Rooted in Truth, hope and joy dwell deep in the fibers of our soul where situations and circumstances cannot reach.

A wish is yearning. Hope is knowing.

Joy and hope cannot be separate. A hopeful person cannot be depressed and a joyful person cannot lose hope. Sometimes we realize that what we once considered hope and joy were merely selfish desires for success in a job, in a relationship, or in our finances.

Hope produces sweet layers of joy that linger in a breath long after a moment. It satisfies hunger, it settles longing and fulfills the desires of our heart.

It’s in this ‘in-between’ space, in the presence of pain that hope and joy drip with sweet honey, mercy and they find the strength to hold on to what is unseen, yet known.

God’s light is more visible and real than whatever fog or shadow you might be living in.

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Struggle Well

What makes relationships work

Being in a relationship is about finding someone you can struggle well with. If you can’t struggle well, it’s easy to walk away. That’s what I’ve learned watching my Ma and Pa work out 36 years of problems presenting themselves. I witnessed when pain and pride interrupted love with it’s tension, there was always a choice to press in or pull back.

relationships, love, love well, struggle wellAs iron sharpens iron, the collision of two distinctly different mindsets can spark some major fireworks. If done right, the refining process can be a beautiful thing. When both are committed to communicate and learn, the clashes can make a marriage stronger, build character, and deepen faith. It’s a necessary part of life.

To desire a comfortable, stress-free living leaves relationships at the surface. And our faith too. How we live with others is a mirror of our marriage with the Bridegroom above. To avoid the difficult parts only holds back what can be developed on the inside; spiritual maturity. There’s no promise for protection from problems. Only the potential to grow or run away.

Life will never stop handing us struggles. It is a daily reality of our faith. Holding back won’t heal the the pain. My folks taught me that communicating the struggles is what seasons life; marriage can flavor with a mouthful of salt and sweet at the same time.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:17

In the tension, trials and soul-felt tears, there must be an accompaniment of understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable. Otherwise, struggling can turn into an emotional response and in this moment of weakness, personal attacks and criticism come crawling out of the grave.

A thief comes in the darkest of hours to steal our joy. Just because two people stay married doesn’t mean they act married. They might be wed and wear rings for the world to notice but apathy can’t change the heart. In these moments, difficult marriages either grow or surrender.

A good marriage is not something you find; it’s something you work for. And coasting through can’t do this. Only struggles that crucify selfishness, confront pain and confess truths can create relationships of beauty and trust by instilling faithfulness and perseverance to grow.

“The more the flesh is wasted by affliction, so much the more is the spirit strengthened by inward grace.” Thomas a Kempis

When you find someone you can struggle well with, there’s an aroma of grace penetrating these dark places. There’s protruding joy, even in the deep pain. There’s understanding, a ‘leaning in’, a hug waiting when hurt and frustration find their way to the surface. These struggles draw us nearer to God.

When you struggle well, you can live with the questions.

Relationships that don’t struggle well are the ones that end.

Thank you for allowing us to witness what 36 years of struggling well looks like, Mom and Dad. Thank you for pressing in when the pain begged you to pull back. The beauty in your love and growth in your character has shaped my future forever. Happy Anniversary, Ma and Pa.

Where Does Fear Come From

Fight Fear with God's Truth

Fear attacks us in the areas God wants to use us. Your greatest fears are platforms to step out in the faith that God has given you the power to overcome. Where you feel weak, is the opportunity to put the spotlight on God’s strength.

Godly fear is out of reverence and love. It’s a holy fear that says, “God Almighty, I see you on that throne and I trust you. I know your intentions for me are good.”

Satan will twist God’s good things — His word, His gifts, His work – around tormented thinking that makes you want to curl up in a corner. The devil wants you to entertain these thoughts in your mind and retreat. It’s a death trap for the serpent to coil more negative thoughts around that dream to suffocate the joy, the power and the freedom that God planted in the garden.

freedom, no fear, God's truth, the gift of God's truth, Jesus is freedom“God has not given you a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.” 1 Timothy 1:7

You have the Holy Spirit inside you that gives you the ability to resist fear. There is power here in the name of Jesus to stand up in the middle of a storm and say, ‘No more! I refuse to believe the lies.’

You have the power to welcome fear or resist it. You have the power to let peace in or let fear rule.

The enemy’s cunning device of fear is only a smoke screen. Satan uses fear to steal the life out of your dreams. This fear will convince you to give up the gifts God gave you out of insecurity. We might trade in God’s big things that require a leap of faith for a false sense of security in the ‘safe’ stuff we can see.

Fear from the gates of hell will force you to act fast. Fear is hasty. God’s fruit of patience knows how to wait.

The thief uses a heavy and oppressive fear to torment you, paralyze you and prevent you from moving forward in God. The devil uses fear as bondage. Our Savior came to bring us freedom.

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived the things that God has planned for you. The Lord Almighty is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above all that you could ask and think.

Let not your heart be troubled. Neither let it be afraid. (John 14:1)

In the name of Jesus, you have the power to resist fear and stand through the storms of life. Holy fear gives you this ability to be courageous despite all you’re facing. Holy fear knows our Creator, Almighty God, is good and in His image, He intends good things for His children.

Fear says we’re alone. The gift of God is His Truth. Your Heavenly Father has never left your side. In Jesus, there is freedom, power, love and a sound mind.

Where is God calling you to step out in faith in this freedom of His power, love and peace? Where do you need to shut off the feelings of fear, the consuming thoughts of doubt and confusion and surrender to trust in Him?

Surrender Brings Clarity

Zephaniah, quiet heart, quiet mind, God is with you, EmmanuelPerhaps this moment is unclear, let it be. Lay it at the feet of Jesus with the rest of life’s unanswered prayers. Your burden is His gift.

When you let go of the questions that consume your mind, God receives the gift of your attention and trust. When concerns crop up and beg for your consideration, let wisdom lead you to fold your hands, surrender your heart and drop to your knees in the presence of what matters most.

Often, the mind stays stuck overthinking, in hopes the answer will reveal itself. As if all this strain in our head will squeeze out serenity once we know exactly what to do. Sadly, the solutions we search for come with their own complexities when we have to actually carry them out.

Peace is available today at the altar where you surrender the pain and strain of the unknown.

Where you spend your time determines what you treasure most. Instead of toiling, take those thoughts to the throne. When we live with this attitude of prayer, we find that God is present everywhere.

An Oasis of Peace

Being Thankful

Giving thanks takes practice.

thanksgiving, peace, oasis, trishakeehn.comIn painful moments, it’s a choice to consciously bend my thoughts away from resentment and remind myself that the high qualities of my invisible but ever-present Father are still good regardless of my circumstance.

As you wait for God to work out His plans in due time, He offers an oasis of peace to soak your thoughts in; it’s called thanksgiving.

It is God’s will that we continually grow. If we are not growing, we are dead. It takes some soul-searching effort to understand what motives God is working to replace in us. Some things are just not for us to understand right now; this is where a flourishing of faith takes place in what we cannot see.  

Here’s what I know to be true, God knows best. He is a God who eventually defeats the worst diseases and even death itself. Virtually any circumstance – however painful or pleasant – can be used by God to shape character, and it is for that shaping we can be thankful.