Friday, December 19, 2014

Compassion over Consumption


Photo credit: wikimedia commons (creative commons)

“In the words of the Lord Jesus Himself “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35

Merry Christmas, Church4Chicks sisters! I hope you all are experiencing immense joy this holiday season. If joy is not at the top of your list of emotions this Christmas, I’ll be praying God’s peace over your life. For many people, Christmas can be a season that is more bitter than sweet. And for many other people, Christmas is a season of stress. Not a ‘oh my goodness how can I bake 300 cookies and shop for 30 people by next week’ stress, but a ‘I can’t even pay my normal bills, how can I afford to buy gifts for my children’ stress. Not to downplay the busyness and crazy schedule this season entails, but I believe there’s a bit of a distinction between busyness and the stressful burden of struggling to make ends meet. Your friend, your neighbor, your co-worker- there are likely people around you who are really struggling right now. Or, maybe you’re in that season right now. Maybe you’re counting pennies, trying to figure out how to make it through this very expensive month.

I’m reading an amazing book this Advent by my pastor, Louie Giglio. “Waiting Here for You: An Advent Journey of Hope”, has been an incredible way for my husband and I to refocus on the true meaning of this season. About once a week in the Advent devotion, the reading is called “Compassion over Consumption”. It only lists the verse at the beginning of this post: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” There is such truth in that statement. Christmas is about giving. It’s about the gift God gave us in Jesus. We commemorate that gift by giving gifts to each other, but I think we can take it a little overboard in our society. It’s easy for the focus to shift from Jesus to shopping, shopping, shopping.

Gift giving is one of my love languages, so it’s easy for me to go a bit crazy during this time of year. But this year, instead of spending a ton of money on each other, my husband and I have tried to focus on giving to people and groups who have needs. Joy filled my heart the other day when I realized that we have spent more on helping people this Christmas than we’ve spent on gifts for each other. And as I’ve watched our bank account and monitored our spending, it’s amazing how God has sustained us. It almost feels like the giving we’ve been doing hasn’t even come out of our bank account. I mean, I know it has, but God gives us provision when we are generous.

Friends, if the Lord has blessed you this season, look around you. If you look closely, and if you listen, you’ll probably notice the single mom who just looks exhausted. You’ll think about your friend whose husband just lost his job. You’ll remember the people who are mourning this season, or those who are dealing with overwhelming medical bills. God has placed people in front of you who could use some encouragement, whether it be a financial gift or some words of encouragement. And, if you fall into the category I just described, know that I’m praying for you. And I’d encourage you to reach out to the Church4Chicks team if there’s any way we can be praying for you specifically.

Christ has come friends! Rejoice, Emmanuel has come! 



Emily Laney is a social worker, educator, and justice seeker.  She has worked with vulnerable populations in the United States and abroad and is passionate about mobilizing the church to stand for justice and truth.  She is a Passion City Church door holder and manages a refugee resettlement program in Atlanta.  She loves her husband Brent and their rescue pup Biscuit. Sunsets and Sushi make her happy.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Standing on the Promises - by @ShelleyHendrix



Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 

(Hebrews 10:23 NIV)

I'm going to keep this post short and sweet. So many of us are facing one challenge on top of another right now and just need the comfort of remembering some promises that we can hold onto while the storm passes over. 

Here are just a few that are holding me. I'd love to hear ones that are holding you. Let's comfort one another and encourage one another by:

Holding
Onto
Promises
Eternal

• "Great is Thy Faithfulness...Lord unto me."

• "You've never failed - and you won't start now."

• "I will never leave you nor forsake you." 

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5b-6 NIV)

*****
If your heart is heavy and hurting, please let us at Church 4 Chicks know how we can pray for you. It would be our honor. You can comment here, connect with us via Facebook or Twitter, or simply email our Prayer & Care Team Leader with your request: ida@church4chicks.com

May God's promises be the anchor for your soul today and every day.

Holding onto His Promises,

Shelley


Photo by Shelley Hendrix







Monday, December 15, 2014

Decorations and Expectations by Melissa Driggers

Photo by Melissa Driggers

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, NIV)


As soon as I heard the words fall from my lips, my heart just broke.

“I just can’t wait until Christmas is over.”

No, no… NO.  I didn’t just say that, did I?

Yes, I had.  OUCH.

It had hurt my heart in the past to hear others say it, never understanding how anyone could dread or dislike the holidays.  How could anyone possibly wish to look over or rush past the manger?  It was so foreign to me.  I have always loved and looked forward to the magic, mystery, and beauty of all that there is about Christmas!  But this year – just a few short weeks ago – some circumstances in a personal relationship had boiled over and deeply scarred my once open and expectant heart.  My dreams and expectations for the relationship shattered before me, and facing the reality that I had to let go of my dreams and my plan was more than my heart could take.  I shut down.  I was just … done.

“I just can’t wait until Christmas is over.”

Hearing those words escape from my lips was terribly convicting, and at that moment I knew that I would no longer allow myself to dwell there.  Because that’s just not me.

So I made some choices.

I have 24 large rubber bins of Christmas décor.  24, y’all.  And I’m a single person!  I love, love, love to deck my home’s walls and halls with glitter, garland, trees, and lights.  Because I fly solo, it takes a few days to put everything up and then again to take everything down.  It’s a major effort (especially with a physical disability), although truly a labor of love…well, for every other year it had been.  Also with a passion for hospitality (and just a general innate need to feed people), I enjoy entertaining around the holidays and am known for it.   This year, the mere thought of doing those things felt like punishment – not joy.  My desire was just gone.  And that’s just not me.  Something was terribly wrong.

After prayerful consideration, I made some decisions.  Well, one really.  I decided to seek.

This Christmas season, those 24 bins sit in my garage, unopened.  Instead, I am spending the hours I would have spent embellishing my home soaking in beautiful, daily Advent readings that are changing my heart (from Ann Voskamp’s, The Greatest Gift).  The extent of my holiday décor is simple this year.  One tiny “Advent Tree” with an Advent ornament hung each day (pictured above) sits in my living room, and no large parties will be held in my home this year.

Guess what?  It’s beautiful.  And it’s enough.

Fixing my eyes on Advent (translated, means “the coming”) instead of the hustle and bustle has allowed my heart to be reborn.  And to stay awake through the season, not wanting to miss a moment – anxiously counting down the time to the day that God himself, made flesh, came into the world.

I feel more anticipation and expectation about Christ’s birthday than I have in years.  Years.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me here.  There is nothing inherently “bad” about decorating and celebrating with gusto the birth of King Jesus, as long as the focus remains on the reason for the season.  It deserves to be celebrated with passionate praise and worship, and with glitter and beauty and friends and family and food and ceremony.  I’m pretty confident that next year my 24 bins will be empty before Thanksgiving, that I will be picking little red and green glitter bits off of my furniture, carpet, and dogs until March, and that many friends and family members will grace the halls of my home for celebration during the Advent season.  But for this year, my heart needed to…just…pause.
 
I almost allowed the painful circumstances in my life to steal Christmas from my heart.  Oh, what I would have missed.  It’s not too late for you to make that choice, too, if your heart is heavy during this Advent season.  Maybe you can’t see the manger through your tears.  Maybe your family is divided, or even broken.  Maybe your prodigal child hasn’t come home yet.  Maybe you’re fighting a disease or illness.  Maybe you’re just tired.  I don’t know what you may be going through, but I do know this.  When we allow the Spirit to get inside of us…when we stop to pause in His presence … when we lay our plans at the altar, our expectations change.  Because we are reminded of the very promise of this Advent season – that there is a Plan.

There is a plan for you in this season.  It’s coming.  A plan for grace. A plan for hope.  A plan for miracles.   All we have to do is make room for it – to anticipate it – to expect it.

With her permission, I share with you a beautiful spoken word video below, written and spoken by my oh-so-anointed dear friend, Cynthia Hampton, a wonderful author and artist.

Together, let’s make room for the manger.  Let’s make room for our King.
(Content in the video below is copyrighted by Cynthia Lisabeth Hampton).

Melissa is an itinerant speaker/teacher, blogger and author residing in the South.  She is single (although she prefers the term “unclaimed treasure”) and lives with her two children, Henry and Hannah, who are “technically” canine (ssshhhh… they don’t know they aren’t human).  Her vision and passion for ministry is to shepherd others to the grace, hope, healing, and restoration found only in Jesus Christ!  Through her own life journey, God has transformed her heart, and she has experienced the true meaning of “beauty from ashes”.
You can connect with Melissa through her web site, at www.infieldsofgrace.com.