Recognizing Jesus in the Small Things

Yesterday afternoon I stopped by my sister’s house at lunchtime just in time to find my two-year-old nephew, The Cub, eating lunch.

Sounds normal, right? Almost.

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At second glace, I noticed that the tot’s lunch wasn’t the only thing on his plate. In the center of the plate, untouched by the food surrounding him lay sweet baby Jesus, manger and all.  Apparently he wanted Jesus to watch him eat lunch.

My nephew has his own nativity set and often carries Jesus around the house with him. As I stared at the plastic figurine surrounded by chicken nuggets and ketchup, I felt a sense of delight. I found myself smiling as The Cub’s lunch painted a portrait of how my relationship with Christ should look.

What a beautiful, simple and rather silly gesture.

Matthew chapter one introduces Jesus as Immanuel, “God with Us,” a phrase promising God’s attentive nearness, his availability into the details of our very lives. This Christmas season, more than any other before me, I am beginning to catch a glimpse of just how much Jesus cares about the things in life I’ve deemed as the silly details. He wants to walk beside us, to do life with us.

My prayer for you and for me this Christmas season is that we may begin to understand the incredible love of our Savior and learn to truly walk beside Him in our everyday journeys; that we would catch a glimpse of the life-changing love that brought Him to earth in the form of a helpless baby human.

God not only loves you and I, but He likes us and desires to be involved in our lives, both in the life changing moments and in the chicken nugget ones. I don’t know about you, but I find freedom in that.

Have you experienced “God with Us?”  If so, how?

Recruiting from the pit

God found Gideon in a hole.

He found Joseph in a prison.

He found Daniel in a lion’s den.

He has a curious habit of showing up in the midst of trouble, not the absence. Where the world sees failure, God sees future.

Next time you feel unqualified to be used by God remember this, he tends to recruit from the pit, not the pedestal.

-Jon Acuff

How much do you love me?

I love children. I love their simplicity, their honestly, their sweetness and their contagious belly laughs.

I also love how they constantly point me towards Jesus.

Several weeks ago I was helping a mother and her young daughter pick out a gift for a friend at the boutique I work at.  The mother was intent on finding the perfect gift, the girl simply twirled beside her. After finding the perfect gift, the mother picked up the little girl and the two watched me gift wrapped.

“Mama, do you love me?” I heard the little girl ask her mother.

“Oh hunny, I love you more than you’ll ever know.” she answered.

“But how much?” the girl replied while stretching out her arms as wide as they’d go, “this much?”

“Much more than that.” her mother replied.

“More than that?” the daughter said wide-eyed. “Mama, spread your arms wide.”

The woman set the little girl down on the counter and spread her arms as wide as they’d go as her daughter chimed,

“Do you love me that much?!”

“Oh hunny, I love you more than that. You are my gift, my treasure. I love you more than you can measure.” said the mom while gazing into her little girls eyes.

“Wow. That’s a lot.” the daughter replied.

Walking back over to deliver the freshly wrapped present, I couldn’t help but wear a smile as I reflected on the conversation I had just eavesdropped in on. Over the past several weeks, I have often been reminded of this sweet little conversation. It’s as if Jesus is gently reminding me of the depths and vastness of his love for me.  No matter how wide my arms are spread, His love will never be able to be measured. I will never understand, nor grasp His love for me.

I am slowly beginning to understand just how much God loves and delights in me. May I learn to walk in His confidence, knowing my identity is found in simply being His child.

Love you, Jesus. Thank you for the constant reminder of your goodness.

Learning to Trust from a Rocky Boat

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.  And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” -Matthew 14:22-32

Oh how I love this chunk of scripture. To me, this story is a beautiful picture of the rawness of humanity wrapped in the presence of Christ. Lately, I feel a bit like the disciples must have felt stuck in that boat. Circumstantially, I am at a bit of a crossroad, causing me to spend more time in prayer and in my bible.  Being faced with major life decisions and being unsure of your intended direction can make one feel like as if they are stuck in a storm.

While reading through this story for the catrillianth time (yes, I’m pretty sure that is a real number…), I am noticing something I haven’t before: Jesus doesn’t calm the storm immediately.

Yes, I know what you are thinking. I should have already known that, right? I mean, I guess I did, the concept just must have slipped till now.

The disciples had rowed for hours. They were nearly four miles from the shore and they were seriously getting their butts kick by the storm.

When Jesus arrives, he presents himself to his followers and Peter joins him on the water. It isn’t until the two step back into the boat that the storm ceases. He had the power to stop the storm earlier, but he chose not to.

Sometimes, I think we are asking for the wrong things from God. His primary desire is not to create picturesque, comfortable lives for us. His desire is for us to know Him, to love Him, to trust Him and to serve Him regardless of the storms raging around us.

Life may seem uncomfortable. You may, like me, feel uncertain about what’s next, but know this: Jesus is ultimately in control. He desires for you to fix your eyes on Him and to trust in His timing and control.

My circumstances may be rocking my boat a bit, but I am choosing to rest in the comfort of the storm’s calmer. I want to become a person who says yes to Jesus, who fixes their eyes on Him, regardless of what is raging around me.  He alone knows my heart and He alone knows what it was made for.

You’re important

If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person. -Fred Rogers

The Scandalous Gift of Grace

I love to wrap presents. And even more, I love giving gifts. I love the element of presentation, the look of glee on a person’s face when they untie the bow and the delight that arrises when the box is opened and its contents are discovered.  A gift represents the notion of care, love and thoughtfulness. I love that.

I have been thinking a lot about grace lately.  In all reality, grace is a giant gift given to us by God our Father.  This beautifully wrapped present gave us life forever, freedom and endless chances.

Our gift of grace is personified and displayed beautifully through the life of Jesus.

When I think of a gift of high price, I think of it as something that should be carefully placed on a table or shelf and be ooed and awed over.  Jesus does the opposite.  Jesus left Paradise, entered into a human body, suffered a gruesome death and bankrupt Heaven so we could be forgiven and enter into a perfect relationship with Him.  When I think about it, my natural mind can’t wrap my brain around the concept.

graceGrace is scandalous. Jesus loves those whom we deem as unloveable.  He transforms lives, gives endless chances and loves extraordinarily and unconditionally, knowing fully we won’t be able to return the sentiment or hold up our end of the deal.

We turn our backs, He still loves.  We make mistakes, He picks us up.  We are selfish, He is selfless.  Ridiculous.  Scandalous. Unthinkable.

It doesn’t add up or make sense, yet He calls us to do the same.

As Christians, Christ calls us to live a life worthy of the calling.  He calls us to know Him, to love Him and to reflect His character of grace to the humaniods who inhabit our planet.

Scandalous grace is love in action. It’s lived out when we choose to love those the world deems as unloveable, when we create healing over hurt, pray rather than slander, offer second chances, keep the names of others safe in our mouths, believe in others, choose to see their God-given potential and choose to forgive rather than hold grudges. We model grace when we reflect on who Jesus is and ask Him to help us duplicate His character in our own lives.

When we are empowered with the grace of Jesus, we have the ability to make broken lives beautiful.

The lifestyle of grace is only created by pursuing Jesus both individually and corporately.  We need to be daily in the word and in prayer and then connecting with the body of Christ.  Learning who Jesus is, falling in love with Him and His people naturally build a culture of grace.

I don’t know about you, but I long to be a person who actively loves Jesus by loving others. I want my choices to model after Jesus’, to point others towards Him and set them free, no matter how many mistakes they’ve made or how unflattering their life looks.  Jesus lived a scandalously beautiful life and He’s invited you and I to be a part of it.

Jesus gave us an extravagant gift.  It can never be repaid, but should be shared without reservations. This gift was not meant for display only, but to be given away.

Garbage Man Hero

My nephew, The Cub, loves the garbage truck.  In fact, I’d go as far as saying he’s obsessed. All week he talks about it and he watches for it. And when it arrives, He drops everything to give it his full attention.

Several weeks ago, my sister and I went for a walk on garbage day. My nephew had been told the garbage man was coming that day and he kept asking about it. While we were out we saw the truck.  We stopped the stroller so my nephew could watch the anticipated garbage man drive up and down the alley, picking up cans and dumping them in the back of his truck.  At the end of the road, the man rolled down his window and talked to my nephew.

The Cub was speechless.  He looked at the man as if he was trying to soak in every moment, every word and action of the man driving the truck he’d waited all week to see.

Sometimes, I feel like God longs for us to have this approach in our relationship with Him.  His desire is for our love, our hearts, our thoughts and to be our obsession.  I don’t know if there is a day that goes by where my nephew doesn’t look out the window and ask about the garbage truck.  In The Cub’s mind, the man who drives the garbage truck is larger than life, he’s a hero.

May we learn to fix our eyes, thoughts and actions on Jesus as my nephew sees his garbage man hero.