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The Second Day of Christmas
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The First Day of Christmas
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Do you ever feel odd? Out of place? Peculiar?
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The Unexpected Christmas
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My Royal Supply Bag

The Second Day of Christmas

The Gift of Light

I do not like being in the dark.  Ever. 

Not in the middle of the night when I wake up unexpectedly–that’s what night lights are for.

Not outside in the darkness–that’s what flashlights are for.

Not when the power goes out–that’s what candles are for.

Not when my life is unclear and I can’t make sense out of anything.  

That’s why Jesus came down to us.

In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.”

There are dark places in my life right now, situations in which I do not know the outcome or how God will work in and through that season.   In those places I am clinging to the Light because Jesus promises if I follow Him, His Light will shine into those dark valleys.

The Greek word “follow” consists of several different smaller Greek words: together, a way, to move quickly and straight.  

When places in my life are dark, I must make the decision to go with Christ, His way, not mine.  I must practice first time obedience.   When His light shines on an area of my life that needs changing, I must respond promptly.  Before He even points me in a direction, I must already decide that I will say Yes and obey Him.

Are you experiencing darkness this Christmas?

Draw close to The Light of the World.   Find a quiet place to read His word.  Ask Him to shine His light onto your heart and through your life.

Be ready to respond quickly.

Remember, you are never alone in the dark.  The enemy may whisper to you, “no one understands or nothing will ever change.” Respond with truth. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

Every year to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season Preacher and I have a tree lighting ceremony.  We began the tradition when the kids were really little, but have carried it on even as empty nesters.  Preacher strings the lights on the tree, we hang all the ornaments, and then we turn off all the lights in the entire house. It is very dark.   However, I don’t mind the darkness.

Preacher is with me and I know what is about to happen.

The Christmas tree lights shine as Preacher flips the switch and we stand in awe of the beauty they bring to the once darkened room. 

There would be no appreciation of the lights if there was no darkness.

Friend, whatever darkness seems to be flooding your life this season, choose this day to follow Jesus–the Light who overcomes the darkness.

Stand in Awe of His gift: The Light of the World!

The First Day of Christmas

It’s 12 days before Christmas and although the traditional Christmas song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, really begins on December 25th and ends on the eve of January 5th,  I awoke this morning determined to use my time of rest and recovery in a productive way. 

I had surgery a little over a week ago.  All the reports have returned good and for that I am so very grateful.  But, honestly, I haven’t ever been good at resting.   Like many, I’ve been brainwashed by American culture that successful people are busy and rest has no purpose.

So now that all the aesthesia and pain reducing medications have exited my body, I want to humbly share with you twelve truths the Lord has been teaching me as a gift for you over the next twelve days.   My prayer is that during this busy season you take a few minutes each day to rest and enjoy His gifts.

Love is the first gift!

In the last few months I have literally heard Jesus shout to me through His word, music and the voices of others.  “I love you, Donna Avant.”   

The song Good Grace by Joel Houston says “So don’t let your heart be troubled; Hold your head up high; Don’t fear no evil; Fix your eyes on this one truth; God is madly in love with you.”

Casting Crown’s Somewhere in Your Silent Night declares “When your pain runs deep, His love runs deeper still; He has always loved you, child and He always will.”

I tend to think that when life becomes difficult, when I am struggling or hurting, that God doesn’t really love me.    I might not say it out loud, but my heart is screaming, “God if you loved me, you wouldn’t let this happen to me.”

I grew up believing I needed to earn love from others.   If my grades were good, if I looked good, if I performed well, then there would be love waiting for me.   Many call this performance-driven love. 

However, God’s love is not based on my performance.  His word declares His unconditional love for us in John 3:16:  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son……..”   God, the perfect Father, gave us His son as perfect love in the form of a baby.

We can’t earn it, buy it, perform for it, or look good enough for it.  Love is His gift to us.

Take a few minutes today to just ponder that little baby who was born, fully human and yet fully God.

He is love and He is madly in love with you!

Before surgery, I had to remove all my makeup, nail polish, perfume, and deodorant.  I had to literally strip myself bare of all that makes me feel more presentable and even somehow more loveable. 

As I laid unconscious on that operating table, I believe, no, I know that Jesus looked down at me with such love.  He loved me, Donna Avant, even when I was utterly incapable of performing. 

And, He loves you!    He always has and He always will!

I’m choosing this Christmas to rest in His gift of love.

Will you join me?

Do you ever feel odd? Out of place? Peculiar?

As I was walking on the property of the Life Action Lodge located in Buchanan, Michigan, I spotted an unusual tree.  It was growing sideways, as though it was struggling to reach toward the sky, or as if someone had taken a saw and cut part of it off.    What had happened to this tree?

Had it been diseased and someone pruned it?

Had lightning hit causing part of it to fall off?

Had it been overshadowed by larger trees and grown crooked in an attempt to receive sunlight?

Whatever had occurred, this tree was different than all the other trees.

Did the tree know how weird, different, and peculiar it was?  Had others stopped to stare at it?

As I finished my walk, all I could do was think about that unusual tree.

Somehow I related to that tree.

God is continually pruning me and there are times when I am not lovely to look at.   There are attitudes hidden in my heart that He is continually pruning.

There are circumstances in my life that may make my story seem peculiar to others.  Life has happened, sometimes like lightning striking, altering what life once was.

At times I have felt overshadowed by other trees and have had to strive to be in the sunlight.

Yet, the uniqueness of that tree is what caused me to stop, to ponder,  and to take notice.

Do you ever feel odd?  Out of place? Unusual? Peculiar?

If so, maybe it is that very uniqueness of your life that will cause people to stop, to ponder, and to consider why you are different.

Take time today to thank the Lord for your uniqueness, for circumstances that have come into your life that might cause you to look, act, and live differently than everyone else.

God created us to live in community but He did not create us to live in sameness.  He created us to be unique individuals who will cause others around us to stop and consider His glory and wonder in our lives.

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that you should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  I Peter 2:9

The Unexpected Christmas

Real Life on Rocky Top welcomes Amy Daniel to the back porch today.  Amy is my middle child.  She has a precious heart for Christ and truly loves people.

My house is on the market, my husband just started a new job, we are packing up our home of the last few years, and oh by the way………I’m pregnant.

All of the above life changes were unexpected.   I don’t know about you, but at Christmas time, especially,  I want things to go as I planned.  I want to give the perfect gift, have my home decorated as if Joanna Gaines was my BFF, have my kids behave like angels for all to see, get the Christmas bonus, and make the perfect holiday meal and so on.

But let’s be real…….it hardly ever goes as planned, especially if children are involved.

As I thought through the complete upheaval in my life, the Lord began to speak to me.  Although I want Christmas to go according to my plans, the heart of Christmas is the unexpected.

There was an unexpected pregnancy, an unexpected birth in an unexpected place with shepherds and angels unexpectedly worshipping the newborn King.  All of the Christmas story is shockingly unexpected for the people involved.

But not for THE God involved.

Christmas has become about my plans.   Yet, the best part of Christmas is that HE HAS A PLAN and it is so much better than mine.

So if you find yourself sitting in an unexpected place this Christmas (a place of sickness, grief, loneliness, or unexpected change) take heart my friend because it is in this place where Christmas is alive.

It is in the unexpected that God Himself comes down to us.   Emmanuel, God with us, is actively and purposefully pursuing us in the unexpected.

Take your eyes off your plans, your schedule and center your eyes and heart on Him.

We have to be willing to SAY YES as Mary did.  “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”   Luke 1:38

So this Christmas, CHOOSE to lean into the unexpected and say YES to His plans!

My Royal Supply Bag

Approaching Veteran’s Day, a question popped up from the past on my Facebook: “Would you be willing to fight and/or die to protect those you love?”   Most, including myself, would quickly say “Yes”!

But there is the more difficult question:  “Would you be willing to change for those you love?”

Would you choose to forgive instead of growing bitter?

Would you choose peace over strife?

Would you choose joy instead of sadness?

Would you choose hope over despair?

Would you choose to bless instead of curse or gossip?

Would you choose to be kind instead of being rude?

Would you choose to demonstrate love rather than hate?

I want to say “yes” to change.  But trying harder doesn’t make change possible…. There may be behavior modification for a while, but true change comes only from within – it comes from the heart.

Peace, love, joy, kindness, patience, and forgiveness are only possible when they are flowing out of a relationship with God.  I have access to them through my relationship with the King!

Addy, my five year old granddaughter, was playing in her room with a backpack filled with “stuff”.  Her daddy asked her what the bag was for and her reply was “It’s my royal supply bag.”  Inside the bag was her crown, a beautiful gown, some slippers, a wand, and a sword and various other “princess” necessities.   Her daddy asked her, “Why do you need all this stuff?”   Her reply, “Dad, I’m going to be a Queen one day!”   Addy definitely sets her expectations high!

As followers of THE ONE TRUE KING, our expectations should be HIGH!   Christ gave His life for our ability to have heart change.

We have a royal supply bag with us at all times. John 14:17 tells us that His Spirit dwells within us – His Spirit IS our never-ending supply of His truth, forgiveness, peace, joy, kindness,  and hope.  When we access those royal supplies, His love will be on display in our lives!

Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”    The word “renewing” means a total renovation.   If my mind is going to be renewed resulting in true heart and behavior change,  I MUST renovate my mind with His word!

If I want peace in my home instead of constant strife, I need to meditate on His words of peace and allow His peace to flow out from me.

If I want to experience true forgiveness for others rather than bitterness, I need to remember the  forgiveness He has extended toward me and His forgiveness will be produced in my life.

We all have a royal supply bag that was given to us when we entered into a relationship with Christ.   This royal supply bag was costly………….it cost the Almighty King of the universe, his one and only Son.

  • Put on the garments of praise instead a spirit of despair: Isaiah 61:3
  • Put on His robe of righteousness instead of spirit of shame: Isaiah 61:10
  • Fight your battles with the sword of the Spirit instead of words of hate: II Corinthians 10:3-5
  • Embrace the King as your Abba daddy instead of living with an orphan spirit: Romans 8:16-17
  • Walk in His peace instead of anger: James 1:20
  • Walk in God confidence instead of fear: Romans 8:15 and II Timothy 1:7

We have those “supplies” at our disposal – but we must access them by saying “Yes” to renewing our mind with His Word and allowing Him to change our hearts!

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