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Merry CHRISTmas and WONDER-FILLED New Year!

“…they fell down and worshiped Him.” – Matthew 2:11

As I take time this week to ponder 2015 and look to the promise of a new year, two groups of people have left an impression on my heart this season. I long to be more like the shepherds and the wisemen…the unsuspecting, but obedient shepherds with hearts open to the Lord, and the expectant, diligent, and purposeful wisemen, who did not grow weary and tired. Their roles in the Christmas story have captivated me this season. They are the two diverse groups of people that God chose to first tell about His precious Son’s birth. Those poor and rich men were the ones to spread the word to all others.

the shepherds…

Picture this with me – out on a hillside sit a group of shepherds with a whole bunch of sheep. They are out, away from town. It was a regular night. They liked regular nights – with no dangers to harm their sheep.

There they sat around a fire. They didn’t have much – they lived in tents and had very little personal property. They survived by eating the meat and drinking the milk produced by their flocks. They used the animals’ wool to stay warm.

This night, it was quiet. The sheep were safe in the sheepfold they had built. They sit silently on the ground, perhaps perplexed, perhaps in awe, no doubt in amazement. Their night watch had been interrupted by an explosion of light from heaven and a symphony of angels. God goes to those who have time to hear him—so on this cloudless night he went to simple shepherds.

the wisemen…

Suppose you could give a gift to Christ, what would it be? How could you possibly select a gift for the One who not only has everything, but who made everything?

The Wise Men did. They can be an example to us. In addition to the gold, frankincense, and myrrh, they gave the Savior some gifts we can give him today: their hope, their time, and their worship.

The wandering wise men gave Jesus their hope. When everyone else saw a night sky, this small band of men saw the light. The sight of the star sparked a desire in their hearts that sent them packing. They went, seeking Jesus.

When night comes to your world, what do you see?
The darkness or the stars?
Hopelessness or hopefulness?

Sometimes, just as he did so long ago, God uses the darkness to reveal his stars—“The light shines in the darkness” (John 1:5).

While you’re giving, give God your time. The wise men did. Before they gave God their presents, they gave their presence. It’s likely that these men traveled as long as two years before locating the prince of heaven. Before that one incredible moment when they knelt before Jesus,the wise men spent many moments, months, perhaps years, searching, in anticipation of that meeting. Just as the wise men devoted themselves to seeking the Savior, so can you: “You will seek him and find him when you seek him with all your heart” (Duet. 4:29).

And when they did find him, the wise men gave Jesus another gift: their worship. Men of wealth, influence, and intellect: what did they do when they saw Jesus? “…they fell down and worshiped him” (Matt. 2:11)

Those men, after an excruciatingly long journey, did not hurry into the house and drop the gifts, and move on. No, not at all. The Bible says says they fell to their knees and worshiped Him. They traveled perhaps 800-900 miles with their camels with expectation and anticipation of kneeling before the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Would you travel that far? And if so, what would you do when you got there? How long would you stay? What would you say? I want to be more like them: to sit and stay, listen and learn, filled with wonder and worship.

In worship, we simply stand before God with a prepared and willing heart and let God do his work. And he does. He wipes away the tears. He mops away the perspiration. He softens our furrowed brows. He touches our cheeks. He changes our faces as we worship. The wise men sought the child of God, just as God seeks his children. “The Father is actively seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:23).

The gifts of hope, time, and worship. Three gifts the wise still give.

Merry CHRISTmas and a WONDERFILLED New Year!

Excerpts taken from “Following the Star”
by Max Lucado

Roctober

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

My husband, Dave, and I helped at our church’s fall festival last weekend by working a game booth for the kids. The booth had an impossible game that no ball would conquer. Though it looked easy, most balls refused to go into the net. Well, after the first set of sad eyes of frustration, we made it our goal to entertain and encourage the kids as they came and to quickly reward their valiant effort. On occasion, we stepped in and magically helped a ball or two go into the net on the rebound. It was fantastic!

Our game booth was equipped with oodles of candy and little trinket toys to disperse to all the adorable costume clad children. One little superman boy came by several times trying to prove to himself that he could conquer the game. After a few rounds of candy, I offered him a toy – a gray squishy rock with the words on it – “God Is My Rock!”. That little guy’s eyes got huge as he looked at the rock and he said “Woah! That is awesome! I got a rock!” I heard him repeating that as he happily ran off to find his Mom. He was very, very impressed with that rock. The amazing thing is that I gave three more rocks away that day, and certainly did not get the same response from the others!

That experience of a little rock made me think about rocks this week. The word “rock” can mean many different things and used in various contexts.

I thoroughly enjoy me some good ROCK and roll music!

My world has been ROCKED several times in this lifetime, both in a magical way and in ways that made me fall to my knees.

I have regrets for moments where my mouth has thrown ROCKS instead of grace and love towards others.

Those ROCKY roads, ROCKY flights, ROCKY relationships, ROCKY jobs or ROCKY health issues have taught us thankfulness, patience, endurance, and given us wisdom from the journey.

But my favorite “rock” of all is knowing without a doubt in my mind, heart and soul, that God is my ROCK. He is a mighty and complete and deep and safe fortress from any storm and danger. He is my Savior, my Redeemer and my Stronghold.

If you want to really ROCK this October, then open up the Bible – the very Word of God, and read verses that talk about the quality of God as our Rock. Samuel, Isaiah, David – they all cry out to God – their Rock. Those men were certainly not perfect. In fact, they were far from it. But, their hearts longed for God. Think of David, an adulterer and a murderer, a man who completely messed up and sinned in ways we would look at as “big sins” – he confessed with a contrite heart, recognized his sin and ran to God.

The book of John tells a ROCK story:

“At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:2-11)

We are pretty good at throwing rocks – Christians and non-Christians alike. In fact, in our culture, it seems we think we grow taller and wiser as we hurl pebbles at “sin” in others. Look at this account of what Jesus did. Here a woman was brought in front of him who was caught in the very act of adultery. No question she was guilty. There are so many questions as I read this: Who had drug her out there? Was she even clothed? Was she crying tears of anger or shame or was she crying at all? Where was the man? We don’t know those answers. But what we do know is that there she was, standing alone in the middle of them. Them – the self proclaimed righteousness leaders, the pillars of the community armed with hypocrisy and crowd pleasing indignation over wrong. Them – the ones with rocks in hand. And as they stood ready to throw, one of them asked Jesus – what do you say we do?

I love how Jesus responds. Beyond wisdom we can’t even comprehend in moments of great turmoil and stress, He just kneels down and starts scribbling in the sand with his finger. What did he write? Did he write the names of the men in that circle that had committed adultery? Did he just doodle and give time for tempers to calm down? Did he write “she could be your daughter”. We don’t know what he wrote, but we do know the response of the men as they began to drop their rocks and walk away.

We are too civilized now days to throw pieces of granite. But, we can certainly hurl words that hurt and cast judgement in just a sentence. As we try to knock out the sin, we damage the heart.

Whether you feel as if you are standing in the middle of the circle or gripping the rock, Jesus writes your name. He doesn’t make anyone drop their rock, but always points to your own heart – check your own heart. Jesus knew the sin – that was obvious. Jesus knows our sin. That too is obvious. The answer is to pay attention to what Jesus writes and leave walk. Walk away from our life of sin.

Whatever definition of rock comes to your mind where you are in life today, I encourage you to own it, to claim it, to confess where you are to God. When we stop hiding and pretending we are perfect, when we stop keeping it all nicely tied together and juggling all the balls in the air and finally just plop down before God and say “here I am” – that is when He can and does work.

My prayer is: Gracious Lord God, may I lay down my ROCKS and show grace. When I walk through ROCKY patches of pain or sin, I pray I will ROCK in my faith and will offer ROCKIN’ worship that will honor and praise You, the one true God – my ROCK and my Redeemer.

“There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” I Samuel 2:2

SeptemBAH

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is Thy faithfulness.”  – Lamentations 3:22-23

Fall is just beginning to blow in the air, and a new season is upon us. I can say with strong conviction, I am ready for this new season. And, knowing it is the season of autumn, of cool evenings and warm family times makes it all the sweeter. Ah.

“rejoice in the Lord your God, for He has given you the autumn rains because He is faithful.” – Joel 2:23

What does the beginning of this autumn, 2015 stir in your heart? Anything? Oh, I hope you are not running on auto pilot. I pray it spurs newness, and a fresh start. Remember your school days, or when your kids were in elementary school? Each August, as it came near to school starting, there was an energy, an excitement, a newness, a little apprehension, and an organic fresh start. The old was gone and the new came in – ready or not. We have that opportunity this season. God is faithful and brings fresh “rain” into our lives through every situation, trial, joy and season. Whoohoo for that!

I love a new season. It suggests a clean slate for the future and moves us away from the past. I always love that opportunity, some seasons more than others. Can you relate? If someone were to walk up to me and say the word “water” over the last 3 months, it made me cringe and increased my heart rate with stress. Usually summer months for our family are filled with carved out times to spend at the beach and swimming pools, and dinners lasting through the evenings. We cherish those times.

This summer, the water times we experienced together were anything but refreshing as the house we leased for the last couple of years became a mote. I like to think of our home as a castle – but that was a little ridiculous. The small leak we had heard for the duration we lived there finally made itself known. The waters rose and surrounded the house on three sides. 800 gallons of water were extracted from under the house, concrete was shot under the house to keep it upright, and the sewer system failed. Our family, with doggie in tow, became part of the family at Residence Inn where we lived for a portion of the summer, working during the day, and eating dinner with new friends in the evenings. When it became apparent that we were not going to be able to move back to that house for a very long time, we as quickly as possible found a new home. Packing a house up in 2 days among the plumbers, dry wallers, building inspectors was quite a challenge. I am not a wimp when it comes to challenges, but this summer’s journey stretched me to the very core. That verse from Lamentations gave me focus every morning remembering God’s wonderful faithfulness and goodness.

So, when I read this verse…

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you” – Isaiah 43:1-2

…I obviously read it through different lenses because of our experience this summer. You know what I see first? – “when you pass THROUGH the waters and rivers”. We have difficulties in this life, absolutely. We all do. We all will. But they do not claim us if we are a child of God. They cannot define us if we claim His Word. They do not last if we know the God who redeems and saves. We walk through the waters to the other side. God calls me by name…by name. He says: “Kim, get that box packed up because you are moving to the next season of adventure I have for you”. I just need to follow His lead and trust Him.

That is our gracious Lord God speaking directly to you today. Whatever you face, God is with you.
He is close. Reach out to Him.
He cares. He knows you, your heart, your hurts, your future.
He is in control. Trust Him.

As you walk through this autumn season, will you look for God’s new blessings every morning? That is where the “ah” comes from. He is faithful. He remains the same. Yeah, life can be a little rough and tumbly some times. It can be windy, wet, dirty, messy, dry, frustrating, confusing, and down right hard. But God is faithful. He offers forgiveness and peace, a future and a hope on dry land! You get to choose your outlook, your path, your response.

May these last few moments of September bring an ahhhh – a peace in His great and wonderful presence and energy to gear up for Roctober!
Kim Hamilton is the founder of Fearless & Fancy Free Ministries and the author of “Fearless – Seven Days A Week” and “Timeless – Devotions Based On The Sermons Of Floyd Strater”. She is a sought after worship leader and a featured speaker for women at churches, schools, and cancer awareness events.

Junetastic

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the sun.
a time to be born and a time to die
a time to plant and a time to uproot
a time to kill and a time to heal
a time to tear down and a time to build
a time to weep and a time to laugh
a time to mourn and a time to dance…”

– Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

“Graduation time brings mixed emotions to our house this year. We have three children and this year our youngest graduates from college. I would not know what is wrong with me if I had not read about the “empty nest syndrome”.

It was a Sunday almost 22 years ago. Betty and I took our two kids and went to church. Betty sang in the choir. While I was preaching, Betty was timing the labor pains. When church was over, someone hurriedly told me that Betty was ready to go to the hospital. With calm haste, we rushed to the hospital and our Kim was born at 2:10 in the afternoon. The next Sunday she went to church and has been there ever since.

When our little one was only 6 months old, we moved to Springfield, Illinois. Everything was strange to her and she cried and hung on to all of us for dear life. Soon the people of the church won her over and she was blessed with many adopted grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters. Every Sunday, she would come home loaded with candy, gum, money, and all kinds of goodies.

At the age of 12 we moved to California and most of our friends thought we were bringing her to the sin center of the world to be ruined. Our church in Springfield had a good Christian school and Kim had always attended this school. How would she change from a Christian school to the public school and from Illinois to California? She made it through La Palma Junior High and Western High School in top form.

Then came the change of going to Pacific Christian College. Now, school days are over. She is excited…I am not ready for her to grow up. As a very unprejudiced father, I point to her and say…”There she is, Miss America”. Her inner Christian faith adds to her outward charm. That’s my girl…and I love her so.” – Floyd

Last month, while sorting through a box of memorabilia, I found this article written by my Dad. He wrote the Pastor’s column every week in the church newsletter, “Knott News”, at Knott Avenue Christian Church for years. Usually the article included something encouraging and humorous or news about an event or mission focus. Remembering back, I didn’t even know he wrote about me until the newsletter came in the mail to our house. It blessed my heart, but I honestly had no idea what he meant by some of those feelings he expressed. At that time in life, I was on the college graduate road with the whole world and all its opportunities ahead of me!

As I pulled the newsletter out of the box this spring, my heart was blessed again. But this time, for the first time, I knew what Dad meant as he described his feelings in that season of life. This June, our youngest graduates from high school. Dad’s recollection was right on. I can remember every moment of our Kelsey’s life from the ride to the hospital at 3:00 in the morning on the day we met her, to her first day at preschool and Kindergarten, to her ballet recitals, gymnastic practices, braces, Jr. High cheer leading and High School choir concerts. She is a talented, beautiful girl with a big heart and her cackling laugh and “all or nothing” spirit have richly blessed our home.

There have been some challenges and pains along the journey for Kelsey. Because of those trials, there is a strength, a fight, a genuineness, and an insight and wisdom that she possesses that will shape her life and bless others along the way. I watched in amazement, over her 19 years, how God placed so many people in Kelsey’s life at just the right time: mentors, friends, teachers, family and church family. In fact, I could name them with vivid recollection, but the list would be far too long. That’s how God graciously provides, and I, as one Mom, am eternally and profoundly grateful.

Now, my girl has made it through high school and is preparing for college, and she made an impact along the way. I will copy my Dad, who ironically became a very real Dad figure to Kelsey, when he said “There she is…Miss America”. Her inner Christian faith adds to her outward charm and beauty. That’s my girl and I love her so.

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In this life, every season has challenges mixed with treasured blessings. Whatever season you are walking through right now, whether it be the bleakest of winter or the sunniest of summer – God has something for you. I believe that with all my heart. No time or experience are wasted in His plan. Contrary to the typical human near-sighted outlook, the journeys we face are short-lived and our trials are for a greater purpose:His purpose. Time flies by, as I can attest to this week. We miss a lot of the blessings by not staying engaged or not living in the moment, and wishing for the next season. This amazing scripture constantly remains on our bathroom mirror:

“Don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well developed, not deficient in any way.” – James 1:3-4, The Message

When you are a child of God, you can walk through any season with hope and joy, knowing He is at work in you. Does that feel insurmountable? Break it down to this day of life. For this day alone: rise and shine, pray, get out of bed and have enough faith to keep walking baby steps and look up. God will meet you there.

Looking back, I can see that some of the darkest seasons of this life, where I did not see a way of escape – those have been some of the richest and most blessing-filled, beautiful spring seasons of all. They produced an unfathomable blessing with an immeasurable and unattainable understanding of God, the value of this life, the treasure of friends, the complete blessing of family. I call it: Priceless wisdom from an unwanted journey.

In this present season of change and growth in our family, we give thanks for the past years of amazing blessing and sweet memories, and we give thanks for what is ahead. As Audrey Hepburn says, “the good ol’ days are still ahead of you…may you have many of them”.

My intense and earnest daily prayer to God to protect Kelsey and her heart continues to this day. I pray the same for you: that June, 2015 will be fantastic. Junetastic. I pray it will be a season of growth, of change, of joy in seeing His blessings, of peace, love and forgiveness, and of conviction to utilize the passions of your heart.

“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”  – Philippians 3:12-14, The Message