The Power of Comfort

When someone we care about hurts or struggles, we want to be a source of comfort. We offer words, hugs, our presence. And we pray. Our thoughtful gestures matter and certainly impact, yet when we pray, we rehearse our trust that God is with this person. We express the depths of how we desire Him to help them, and as we do we believe that He can do far more than what we ask or imagine.

Dear God, I lift my friend/ my child/ my co-worker to you. Please comfort them. Cover and fill those places that only you can fully comfort. Amen.

God hears our simple words and sees the truest version of the yearning in our heart—our inmost thoughts that we have not yet whispered. He delights that we trust Him to provide perfect comfort. He comforts them—and He comforts our concerned heart.

So, what about when you are the one who aches?

Do you ever forget that you are a child, God’s beloved daughter, his little girl? Sometimes I live like I’ve forgotten. When hard stuff happens, I ask for God’s help to persevere or to be strong. It usually takes me a while to remember, I need the comfort of my Abba’s loving arms right now. I need to be still and be held.

“For the LORD comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.” (Isaiah 51.3)

Fun, encouragement, rest, inspiration fill some of our days. Then another day, week, or season ushers in sadness, discouragement, exhaustion, overwhelm. Relationship tension or heartache, illness, financial crisis, work stress, and decision anxiety stir angst. Hard experiences can strip the part of us that was content.

God is with us—Immanuel. He is Comfort and covers our waste places and wilderness—those spaces of hurt, loss, confusion, and fear. Even though our hard circumstances may remain, God’s comfort soaks our soul that we may rest, secure and peaceful in Him.

“I, I am he who comforts you.”  (Isaiah 51.12a)

Thank you, O God, that you comfort us, even when we don’t ask. Help us come to you and learn to be still with you for soaking comfort. Thank you that though challenging times come, you will make our wilderness like Eden and our desert like the garden of the LORD. Amen.

What I Learned As A Mom About Sharing Two Stories: Savior and Santa

When I was a little girl, my parents shared the story of Santa, and my brothers and I were all caught up in the seemingly magical event—so much so, that before our home had a real fireplace, Mom and Dad would set up a 5-foot-tall cardboard fireplace for Santa to come down and none of us doubted that this would happen. Yeah, I know, really? And then, eventually, each of us ‘didn’t believe’ any more. My conclusive clue was the price tag dangling on my new bike. . .

Thankfully, Mom and Dad also shared  the story of Jesus’ birth in their best way.  We didn’t have a Bible or videos or colorful books, but we had them. They told us the story, played Christmas hymns (along with songs about Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty), marked the Sundays of Advent with us, and took us to church.

Moms share with me their wrestlings regarding Santa. I had them, too, when our children were little.  The Santa story is an option. It’s not a parental command performance.

Telling our children about Jesus is a responsibility.

Santa is like Mickey Mouse or Cinderella. He’s a character in books and movies and seems to be real when someone dons the character costume. He’s an option for enjoyment as we enjoy escaping into our imagination. He only becomes more if we make him more. Pray. Discern God’s leading for you and your family and go with this.

The most important story to us is the one we will talk about the most, the one that our home reflects, and the one that we are most strategic about for our children.

Terrell and I did tell the Santa story as a small part of our children’s home experience of Christmas. They had their picture taken on Santa’s lap, just like they had their picture taken with Disney characters in Disney World. When they came home talking about Santa-related events from school, I focused to be interested in them—and not the message of the activity. We made Christmas lists, baked cookies, sang carols, and watched some of the same Christmas classics on television that Terrell and I watched when we were kids. We read stories about Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty the Snowman—and we read storybooks about Jesus being born.

Our central, overarching emphasis was the story of Jesus’ birth and God’s love for us. We made an Advent wreath, lit it’s candle most nights, and shared devotionals at supper to build up to marking the birth of Jesus. Some days I used my parents’ old plastic manger scene to act out the story with the children, and then I let them play with it. In time, they wanted to show and tell me the story. Cute memories remind me of how much they absorbed. 

Yet, in my heart, I wrestled with the largeness of the secularization of Christmas and how to raise our children as we lived in the middle of it. My prayers were a mixture of vents of overwhelm and whispers of trust–God, draw their hearts to You. God helped me see that this challenge wasn’t something for me to win. Rather, it was a challenge to persevere through— to follow God’s lead, pray for each child’s heart and mine, and trust Him—that He is at work in all of us and that He is bigger than all of this.
We get to set tone and direction for our home, and the bent of our heart inspires this.
I had no idea of this at the time, but those years prepared me to realize that I would need strategy for our children regarding every worldly challenge that would come.
As our children grew and out grew Santa, the main challenge still presented:  How do I lead and influence our children to recognize the significance of learning about and contemplating the birth of Jesus … while at the same time participating in the glittery holiday atmosphere of decorations, parties, and exchanging gifts?

Dear Jesus,
Thank you for coming to earth for me, for my family, for this world. Fan into flame love and awe for you in my heart. Teach me how to share you, both boldly and gently. And may your love in me bend my heart to set tone and direction for our home. Amen.

Counsel That Leads Us Forward

“I don’t know what to give her.”
“I can’t decide whether I should let him go to that–or not.”
“I don’t know how to have this conversation.”
“I not sure how to handle this situation.”

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given . . . and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9.6)

Wonderful Counselor.
God desires that we know Him as Counselor—and He doesn’t specify ‘only for the big stuff.’

Any time of year, we have decisions to make, circumstances to deal with. Some are big; others are small. Yet sometimes the smallest matters stress us out or keep us up at night. Or, we think about it so much, that mental exhaustion plagues us.

Maybe we unintentionally categorize things that warrant prayer and things that are too trivial to ask God?

“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4.5b-6)

“In everything” includes the trivial and every category of life. When we talk and listen to God, we practice having relationship with Him. We draw nearer to our Shepherd and learn to discern His voice. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10.27)  Relationship.

Instead of only thinking about something, ask God and learn to listen for His guidance. This season can be extra-busy.  Pause to practice prayer—to seek God’s counsel—as you drive to work, take a walk or jog, wash the dishes, shower, wait in line, sit on hold on the phone . . .

Practice with the small stuff. Consider this:  Your friend or child seeks your counsel or advice for a small matter like: Which shirt should I wear?  Do you think I should go to that? What should I give him for Christmas? Your availability communicates value, support, faithfulness. How much more does God desire that we experience His steadfastness?

The simplest of counsel is sorta like a recommendation: Lord, which would be the best appointment date? . . . Please show me who I should ask to lead this committee? . . . When is the best time to tell them the news?

When I began to practice praying about the small or trivial, God grew my confidence that He really is with me all day and all night. Plenty of times I didn’t receive a clear answer, but His peace guarded my heart from worry as I made decisions or moved through a long hour. He became my Wonderful Counselor, sometimes providing a person as His tangible vessel for me to talk with at just the right moment. He grew my understanding of his love as Father—He doesn’t grade what we seek His counsel about; rather, He delights that He is the One whose counsel we seek.

Practice. Then, when the big decisions or circumstances come, discover that God has built a solid foundation of faith in your heart. Your relationship is intimate, and your dependence is strong.

When we seek God, we decide to believe that God’s way is the wise way. And even if we aren’t sure of his answer, we trust that He is with us and leading. He grows us to know Him as Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Dear God,

You know our need before we ask. Thank you for counselors that you provide in our life—professionals, family, friends, acquaintances—who seek you and serve as tangible vessels of your counsel and point us to you. Especially, prompt us to pray as we move through our day, to trust that you want us to come to you in everything, that we will know you personally as our Wonderful Counselor. Amen.