No Strangers

I am on my way home from speaking at a Cru Winter conference in Indianapolis. I didn’t know but only a few people out of 1500 students and staff. But I found myself immediately connecting with so many people over our shared love of God and helping others grow. I remember the joy of being in God’s family; because of Jesus, we experience authentic fellowship, instant rapport, and deep connection. There were no strangers there.

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God’s Nature: To Bless

This morning I read in my God is Enough devotional how God cannot help but to bless us because it’s His unchanging nature to do so. How wonderful to consider!

I remember the words of Isaiah 30: “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!”

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The Wound is a Portal

This morning in church, we heard testimonies of God’s faithfulness through hardship. We looked back together as a church family over all God brought us through in 2019. Families cried as they shared how God’s power and presence met them through the illness of a child, through depression, through cancer. They knew Jesus in such an intimate way. He spoke clearly through His word, through others, and by the Holy Spirit impressing the heart with God’s voice.

What wounds we witnessed!

But the wound became a portal–a large an unmistakable opening into another way to see and to live. The wound from suffering provided special and unique access to God.

Isn’t that always the way? Isn’t the wound a portal we may always choose to walk through to a deeper kind of healing, of knowing, and of living? The wound takes us there.

The wound originally took us there. I think of Isaiah 53:5 and what Jesus’ wounds accomplished: But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

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Your Blog in 2020

I love blogging. I love that blogs are searchable and work as a ready archive of your life. For example, in 2010 on this very day, I went sledding even though I was all dressed up for a night out. In 2011? I watched a petal floating down a stream and learned about letting the Living Water guide me past obstacles. In 2012, I learned the beauty of boredom. In 2013, a little bird filled me with awe. 2014 allowed me to consider doing “little things” for the Lord while this day in 2015 showed me why we need mistakes. In 2016, I remembered to trust the One leading me even though I didn’t see the path ahead. In 2017 I thought about the small contribution of fish and bread from that little boy in scripture. Last year on this day, I reflected on my public speaking journey.

What if you started blogging in 2020? You might record small moments of gratitude or joyful discoveries. You might record wisdom gleaned or something you’re wondering about. In a decade, like me, you’ll have a record of growing. You’ll have a record of God’s faithfulness. It’s a wonderful, precious gift.

You can blog just for yourself and your family. You can also blog to allow others to witness and find encouragement from your journey. You can blog as a record for your children and grandchildren. Why not start one?

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You Can Be the One

Today I remembered to be the one to gather people. It can be you! You can make the plans, pick a friend up, look up the movie times, make the restaurant reservation, scope out a new hike, or dream up any outing you want.

You might rely on someone else to do these things–and perhaps you stay at home wondering whether someone will invite you out. But you can be the one to invite others out. You can be the one to send the texts and organize a gathering. Let it be you!

Your friends will thank you. They’ll say, “Thank you for gathering us and for making this plan.”

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The Viral Moment You’ve Been Waiting For

It finally happened. I went viral.

(Not technically. Viral means something like 5 million views in 5 days. I’m not viral like this. But keep reading. You’re about to witness my most ever liked and retweeted social media post in the history of my social media use.)

More specifically, my cat Louie went–and continues to go–viral.

It started with a cute picture of Louie burrowing into the Christmas wrapping paper on Christmas morning. I posted a picture of Louie with the hashtag #christmascats, and I mentioned the wrapping paper.

Soon, Twitter put the picture in their Twitter Moments feed with the headline, “Nothing can stand in the way of cats playing with wrapping paper.”

And then. . .

My phone continues to explode with notifications. At the time of this writing, Louie has been now seen by 193,338 people with the number rising steadily. 42,206 people have interacted with his picture in some way (retweets, comments, likes). As the number steadily grows, I make jokes with my family about my viral celebrity cat. I joke about Ellen DeGeneres inviting Louie onto the show. I imagine Oprah wanting a moment with this magnificent cat. As I type this, my phone buzzes and buzzes with more and more likes and retweets. For someone who maybe gets 2 likes at the most when I post anything on Twitter, this felt like a true moment. Maybe the only other moment I’ve had on Twitter is a decade ago when I mentioned I was watching American Idol, and Ryan Seacrest responded. That was a moment. But this cat? This cat is something.

Louie Von Whiskers in the Christmas Wrapping Paper

It’s the moment. The moment. The viral moment everyone wishes for.

And you’ll never guess what I’m about to say. It’s not meaningless. It’s not empty. It’s actually fun. And it connected me with many people with comments that went something like, “Me too. Here is my cat doing the same thing. Next try making a bed with a cat.” For the past 24 hours, I’ve laughed with complete strangers about our cats. The authentic connection and togetherness of a mini viral experience made me realize why people long for it. It’s connection. It’s knowing you’re seen and understood. It’s resonance. That’s what these kids are after.

And I’m glad I tasted the fun of it for one day of my life.

Thank you for listening to the story of my celebrity Christmas cat, Louie Von Whiskers.

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Blessed Dependence

Merry Christmas Eve! I pray you embrace a life of blessed dependence. Let all the ways you aren’t perfect drive you to the Lord. Around the holidays, I know that so many readers here don’t feel the best. You maybe feel like it hasn’t been your best year, like you’ve made too many mistakes that others see, and that everyone else expected more from you. It’s the classic shame response. Many young people, for example, have to answer questions about why they’re still single, why they aren’t in a better job, or why they haven’t yet done this or that. Maybe you’re reading and you didn’t get into your choice college. Maybe your semester didn’t go so well. So you might interpret every inquiry about your life through the lens of shame. And even if the questions aren’t that explicitly shaming, there’s often always a subtext that we wish you’d be better.

The best remedy—in fact the only remedy–is the freedom you have in the unconditional acceptance, delight, favor, and blessing of Jesus. Imagine Him declaring over you a hearty “Well done!” Imagine Jesus reminding you now that you were never perfect, you won’t ever be perfect, and that your perfection only comes from your union with Him. He will work out in your life “that which is pleasing to him” (Philippians 2:13). He invites you into all of the privileges of being a child of God (Ephesians 1).

When you feel overcome with any negative emotion, remember that this very feeling drives you into blessed dependence upon Jesus. As we celebrate His birth, we especially take note of the humble, degrading circumstances of his arrival and care. He comes right into the shame of it all as a rescuer for you and me.

Finally, as a woman in my mid-forties, I love taking on the role of mentor and someone declaring blessing over others like the royal priest in 1 Peter 2:9. I take seriously the fact that Jesus is conforming you and me to the image of Christ. We therefore move into social settings with the unconditional acceptance, delight, favor, and blessing of Jesus that we reflect to others. Do you know older people who do this? Do you know people who, no matter what you’ve done or how bad it’s been, somehow make you feel so good about yourself when you are with them? That somehow, they believe the best about you? I wish more and more to be the one declaring over others a hearty “Well done!” We spread the love and good cheer of the Savior we know loves us and invites us into that blessed dependence.

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A Fun Expression

On the radio today, I hear an advertisement that ends with a word of wisdom: “Remember, if it’s over your head, it’s still under His feet.”

I remember Isaiah 66:1: This is what the Lord says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.” I love the image of everything being under the Lord’s feet.

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