beginning, now unfolding on the road south from Nazareth.
Mary was “great with child” (Luke 2:5) as they traveled. We can only imagine how uncomfortable, unsettled, uneasy she felt. Where will my child be born, Lord? I am certain he will survive, but will I? Though Joseph has no recorded dialogue in Scripture, he no doubt encouraged his young bride, mile after difficult mile. I heard from an angel too, Mary. I know whose child you carry. I will care for you and keep you both safe.
A few miles beyond Jerusalem, the town of Bethlehem finally came into view. Nine months of expectation were over. Time for the Christ child to appear.
Read Luke 2:1–20
In a grotto beneath the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, a silver star marks the traditional site where Jesus was born. But two thousand years ago, his birthplace looked nothing like this.
Mary labored in a lowly stable, and laid the Son of God in a feed trough meant for livestock. However fresh the hay, there was nothing clean about the place, nothing pleasant, nothing fragrant.
Even so, God came to us. Cast his lot with us. Became one of us.
“She gave birth to her firstborn, a son” (Luke 2:7). A handful of words, as simple and humble as her surroundings. Mary wrapped him in strips of cloth, cocooned him in linen, and held him close.
Surely she wiped away tears of joy and relief, kissed his brow with trembling lips, counted his fingers and toes, then took him to her breast.
Everything about this birth was both ordinary and extraordinary.
The Son of God wasn’t born to a princess; he was born to a poor, uneducated young girl. His first bed wasn’t covered in gold; it was stained with dung. He didn’t come in power; he came as a helpless newborn...
...Mary had treasure on earth: the Son of God, nestled in her arms. We have an even greater treasure: the Spirit of God, residing in our hearts. He is the One who urges us to value what is truly valuable, and let go of things that aren’t treasure at all, but trash. Disposable, unnecessary.
An interesting lesson for the Christmas season, isn’t it? While we spend, spend, spend on gifts that are quickly forgotten, neglected, discarded, the Lord is gently reminding us, “The gift that matters is my Son, who came to earth with nothing.”
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By Christian Fauth
We continue with this powerful, yet vulnerable entry from licensed minister, Christian Fauth. Last week she shared about her lifelong struggle with depression and the process to finding help.
To read last week's entry, click here.
Let's pick up where she left off...
I guess I’m writing this for two reasons. The first is for someone to know there is help. No matter what the problem or the pain, there are professionals that are waiting to give treatment to those who feel they are at their end. There are people, whether it is a church or other organization that will support those who need to know someone cares. I can’t stress enough how important it is to take that step and acknowledge a need for help.
The second reason I wanted to write this is because I want people to know there is hope. My story does not end with seeing a counselor every other week and taking medication daily. Early in 2014, a few months after my stay, I met with a friend and as we watched our children play at McDonalds I told her my story. She, in turn, told me how she too had struggled with depression, but God had healed her. Now, I knew God heals. God heals cancer. God makes the deaf hear. I had witnessed healings of others in my life. But did God heal mental illness?
Does God heal mental illness?
Over the next few months, I wrestled with this. I prayed. During the summer, I started getting sick when I took my medicine. I thought maybe the strength was just too high. But I talked to Carl and told him, “I think God is healing me.” In October, I had another doctor appointment. I shared with my doctor and she said she didn’t see a need for me to take the medication any longer! It has been a year and I still haven’t taken anti-depressants. This is the longest I have ever gone unmedicated since 2003.
Our family is happy. Our marriage is healthy. I am whole. Christ has set me free. I am healed.
I hesitated to write this. I don’t want people to think I am seeking fame or attention. After all, it took me two years to write this down for myself. However, I want to make God famous. I want to give Him the praise He is due. Revelation 12:11 says “and they overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.”
Word of their testimony.
Part of this healing is sharing what God has done. I’ve kept it to myself for too long, unsure why God chose to heal me while others fight everyday. I still don’t know why, but I can’t just keep it to myself if there is someone who needs to hear of a hope and light in the darkness of this world. God can take you at your lowest point and He will carry you through. Today, I share that no matter where you are, no matter what you are going through, there is help, hope and healing.
Let me leave you with a few practical directives if you find yourself in a similar situation. What should you do if you find yourself feeling hopeless?
Christian Fauth and her husband, Carl, celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary in June. They currently serve as worship pastors at Life 360 in Springfield, Missouri, where she also serves as the creative arts pastor. They have three "handsome, hilarious, and wonderful" boys. "I have shaped my ministry philosophy around growing up with mental illness in a pastor’s home and seeing the need for more vulnerability and honesty about what God can do, not in spite of but, through our struggles." When Christian finds free time, she likes to read design magazines and spend lots of time with family and friends. Her greatest passion? "My greatest passion is to see people connect with God and to know who they are in Christ."
But, those who have not been so fortunate, may still be seeking approval from authority figures even as adults, never quite feeling they measure up to others around them.
Words kill, words give life; they are either poison or fruit . . . you choose (Proverbs 18:21, MSG).
If we are honest, even the best parents can give a mixture of blessing and cursing, healing and hurt within moments. Florence Littauer, author of Silver Boxes, inspires us to weigh our words knowing the value of encouragement and the pain caused by criticism. She shares an illustration of how many building blocks it takes for a child to construct a castle, yet all it takes is one kick to knock them all down. I was challenged that even when giving so many compliments and words of support, all it took was one sharp word of correction and my children would experience pain. I am not saying we should not give instruction or discipline, but we can ask God to show us how to encourage positive behavior rather than focusing on the negative.
Watch the way you talk. Say only what helps, each word a gift (Ephesians 4:29, MSG).
...In the Old Testament, God tells Abraham that his offspring will be instruments of blessing to the whole world both in their deeds as well as with their words (see Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:16-18). From these early examples, the power of blessing began to develop, and we see it became a practice for generations. Their very names were often used as a form of blessing and prophetic promise based on the meaning of each name. This was evidenced by the names Zelophehad gave to his five daughters, declaring their individual gifts and abilities which he prophetically spoke over them (Numbers 27:1; Joshua 17:3-6). A patriarch’s final blessing was important in biblical times as a matter of inheritance rights. In addition, some final blessings included prophetic statements that revealed God’s supernatural power at work in and through those that received the blessing.
...The principle is clear: God has given parents and grandparents the privilege and authority to speak blessing over their children and, with that blessing, to advance life, health, growth, joy and self-confidence! We need to learn to incorporate this privilege as a dynamic aspect of raising our children and blessing them in every way we possibly can.
In the same way we are admonished to speak blessing over the next generation, we also feel that God is pronouncing His blessing over each one of us in a powerful and prophetic way, blessing our lives and our future. As a spiritual leader to the women placed under my care, I speak God’s blessing over your lives and His favor for you to be used mightily in these last days...read more
For the first eight years of our ministry, I didn’t have a friend to my name. In those same years, I birthed and stayed home with three children, and I remember willing myself not to get sick because I didn’t know who I would call for help if I did. Community was something I created for other people, not something I enjoyed myself. At least, that’s how I felt.
When we prepared to plant out of that church, my husband gathered prospective core team members in our living room and asked, “When you dream of what church could be, what is it that you think of?” For me, the answer was simple, and I timidly spoke out loud what I’d held inside for so long.
“I don’t want to feel as if I’m standing outside of community, helping it happen but not enjoying it myself. I want our church to be the kind where I get to enjoy the inside. I want to have friends.”
What I didn’t yet realize is that community isn’t something that comes to us; it’s something that we go toward. We make choices that either invites community or hinders the very thing we long for. The reasons I’d struggled in friendship were many—my lack of initiation, the very specific parameters I’d placed around what type of friend I wanted and how they would relate to me, time constraints that I used as an excuse, but, primary among them, is that I chose not to take the risk of vulnerability with other women.
God gave me a do-over with church planting because the difficult nature of the work made it nearly impossible to hide behind carefully maintained facades or self-sufficiency. My spiritual, physical and emotional neediness pointed like arrows toward asking wise and faithful women for help. And so, I did.
Vulnerability is the spark for us to enjoy and help cultivate true community. Only through vulnerability can we fulfill...read more
One of the best things we can do for our friendships, whether fledging or lifelong, is to become cheerleaders for other women.
Don't we all crave a cheerleader friend? Absolutely! We don't want cotton-candy flattery or even the niceties about our appearance or choice of couch pillows, nor do we want silent cheerleaders who think but don't speak words of encouragement. We want a friend of the super athletic cheerleader variety, who exerts enthusiasm and energy in exhorting us on, even as they do their own faith-thing at our side. These kind of friends are rare, and we can't guarantee we'll have a friend like that. But we certainly can be that kind of friend to others.
I tell you what: being a cheerleader for other women can be awkward. I know because I am the queen of awkwardness and, frankly, I don't care. I see too many women standing on the sidelines of life feeling like a failure when, in fact, they are walking by faith and adorning themselves with the glorious beauty of good works. They need to know that God's fingerprints are all over them! ...read more
“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3 (NIV)
A winter Saturday afternoon found me cleaning our basement storage room. There were boxes of papers to sort, bins of holiday decorations to shuffle and other assorted items to realign neatly on the shelves. I’d estimated it would take me an hour or so to tidy up the space. Except I hadn’t factored in one thing.
The items I straightened and stacked weren’t spectacular; they were common articles found in many basements and garages. But the fragrance of precious memories clung to them. Memories of events that changed my life. Memories of people who touched my heart. My pace slowed significantly...continued
Karen Ehman is a Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker and New York Times bestselling author. Described as profoundly practical, engagingly funny and downright real, her passion is to help women to live their priorities and love their lives as they serve God and others.
She has co-authored two books just for moms with Ruth Schwenk of The Better Mom - Hoodwinked: Ten Myths Moms Believe and Why We All Need to Knock It Off and the newly released ECPA best-seller Pressing Pause: 100 Quiet Moments for Moms to Meet with Jesus. She is also the Speaker Track Director of Proverbs 31 She Speaks Conference and a teaching staff member of their writers' training site COMPEL.
I wish I could be more confident!
So many times I’ve whispered this prayer. Sometimes God asks us to do crazy things. Following Him requires a great deal of faith, and confidence is a good thing—or is it?
Confidence: a full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing.
This culture heralds strong, confident women. But strength and confidence in what? In ourselves? We need to guard ourselves from this bad idea. What happens when we come to the end of our strength? Or when someone comes along who is more talented?
As a social worker, I have watched the feminist movement champion the power of femininity and self-reliance...continue reading.
Kimberly Waldie is married to an incredible man, mother of four great (sometimes challenging) kids, and pastor’s wife to an awesome church in Traverse City, MI. She has served over 20 years in ministry to children, youth, women, and alongside her husband as lead pastors. She has a passion for speaking, teaching, and mentoring women to discover their true identity in Christ and navigate the challenges of womanhood. As a social worker and adoptive mom, she has worked with families dealing with the difficult issues of foster care/adoption. She enjoys using her horses for ministry, writing, running, and spending time with her family.
First I have to ask who do you think forgets about you?
Is it God? He doesn’t ever forget you!
Is it the people you lead? They usually forget you!
Is it your spouse? He rarely means to forget you!
Over the past 14 years I’ve wrestled with all of these questions some more prominent at times than others. I’ve sat in church wondering if God could see me hurting, wondering if He saw I had no way to serve Him because it had all been taken away by people I saw as more capable than me, wondering if it even mattered.
The truth is...continue reading
I’m not good at being an encourager. Or, as a friend put it, “You’re not a pillow-fluffer.” And it's true; I’m not. It is a conscious effort for me to discipline myself to be an encourager. At the risk of sounding spiritually shallow, I’ve never felt I’m great at evangelism either.
You, too? I suspect this might be you since, according to a Barna Group survey, only 1% of Christians believe they are gifted at evangelism. This, however, is not a blog to debate whether evangelism is a spiritual gift or not. (That’s another blog.) But, doing the math, it’s quite clear a huge chunk of us are not participating in sharing the gospel.
The common excuse, “evangelism is not my gift,” isn't a valid reason to not share the gospel. We often justify that if it doesn’t come easy, then it isn’t for me to do. Yet, without debating, let me challenge you with this question—If I’m not good at encouragement, does that mean I’m exempt from “encouraging one another daily?”
Of course not...continue reading
My husband is currently a bi-vocational church planter. This means that he has a full time job while planting and pastoring a new church plant. In the past the balance of family and ministry has always been tricky, but now more than ever. Balancing the demands of ministry on the family can feel overwhelming and complicated. I have had two sides drilled into my head. As a result two personal rant/pep talks have emerged:
Talk number one: "Tish, put family first! If your family is in disrepair your ministry is valueless. You cannot minister to others with full gospel impact unless you are making your marriage and your home priority over all."
Talk number two: "Tish get a grip and stop being selfish! A ministry calling demands sacrifice. Your time is not your own and your home is not your own. Pour yourself out generously for the sake of the gospel and for the health of Christ’s church."
How do we reconcile these two?...continue reading