Question the Messages

Gina Butz expectations, identity, truth 0 Comments

Question the Messages

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Years ago, a hair stylist told me that I should always have bangs, and short, blond hair. And I believed her.

For years, I obeyed those rules. Whenever the crazy idea entered my head that I stray from them, her authoritative, expert voice rang in my ears, cowing me into submission.

I currently have long, brown hair, no bangs. And I like it.

Which makes me think, “What else have I taken as truth, and let guide my life, that isn’t necessarily true?”

Granted, a hairstyle isn’t life-altering. But let’s dig deeper.

What about my 15-year-old self, staring at that friendship break-up note that said I wasn’t worth being friends with anymore?

Or my college self, feeling the sting of a friend’s accusation, “You don’t care enough about relationships,” (oh yeah? tell that to 15-year-old me).

Messages about friendship. Our bodies. Our value. What we can do. What we can’t. How far we can go.

Not enough. Better to be safe than sorry. Be amazing. You don’t fit in. Be indispensable so others love you. Don’t rock the boat.

Along the way, we get marked with messages.

Those messages shape us. They shape how we see ourselves, how we present and protect ourselves. They tell us who we should be, or who we can’t be. But those messages don’t have to define us. They simply may not be true.

So we have to question them. Consider the source. Did they come from someone who was for you? Do they keep you from living freely? Do they stem from patterns over time, or from someone’s observation in a moment? Because friends, we are not moments.

When we learn to question the messages people give us, we can overcome them. Take a lesson from these fine people:

Modeling agencies told Marilyn Monroe she’d be better off as a secretary.

Rudyard Kipling was told he didn’t know how to use the English language.

Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was, “Too stupid to learn anything.”

Me, with my lack of bangs, and long brown hair.

Walt Disney got fired because he, “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” (that one makes me laugh out loud).

Imagine how different those lives would have been if they had carried those messages as truth. Friends, we wouldn’t have Disney World. Or light bulbs. Let that sink in.

So what messages are you letting shape your life?

Question them.

And then walk in the truth.

 

Related posts:

The Illusion of Having It All Together

When Comparison Tell Us Who We Are

never miss a post

 

It’s Going to Be Okay

Gina Butz grief, hope, trials 0 Comments

It's going to be okay

Photo by Chungkuk Bae on Unsplash

“It’s going to be okay.”

I recently told my husband that he can no longer say this to me when I am discouraged, anxious, or forecasting the demise of some aspect of my life (as I am apt to do at times).

I’ve always hated when people say, “It’s going to be okay.” I want to slap them.

“How do you know?” I wonder.

How, in the middle of this really stinky moment in my life can you offer this platitude? (Trust me, I’ve had it offered to me at really, really stinky moments).

But lately, I feel like God keeps telling me exactly that, “It’s going to be okay.”

Really, God? Is it really going to be okay? How can you say that? When I’m sitting here waiting to hear the news that could be life-changing, it doesn’t feel like it will be okay if it doesn’t turn out the way I hope. When we’re staring down disappointment, broken dreams, loss, shalom shattered, sometimes it doesn’t feel like it will ever be okay.

But He repeats: It’s going to be okay. Here’s how I know.

It’s going to be okay. Why?

This past week at church, we talked about Jesus raising Lazarus. When Lazarus falls ill, they send for Jesus by saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” I don’t send for people that way, but maybe I should, like, “Erik, the wife whom you love needs a foot massage.”

But that’s what defined their relationship. And just to be clear, John reiterates it in verse 5, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” Ah, so it wasn’t just them thinking he loved them. He really did. Our speaker pointed out how important it was to preface the story this way because, in the middle of the not okay that was coming, it would be easy to doubt.

It’s easy for us too.

He loves us

It’s going to be okay because He loves us. That’s the anchor where we sink our souls when life doesn’t look the way we feel it should. The God who loves us more than life is in it.

So it’s going to be okay. But not just okay. It’s going to be good.

Oh, but not necessarily good in the way we think it should be good. And that’s the problem.

The problem is that my idea of good is so focused on my comfort and happiness, focused on tangible, temporal things. In my world, the news is always what I hoped it would be. Jesus shows up in my time and my ways.

He is good

But It’s going to be good because He is good, and His purposes toward us are for our good. He is focused on our character and sanctification, on intangible, eternal things. He shows up in His time and His ways, that are so much better than ours.

His good is so much bigger. It’s a good grounded in the deepest love we can imagine, always working on our behalf.

It’s good in the way that Jesus didn’t just save Lazarus from illness, he raised him from the dead. That’s a better story.

He’s writing a good story

And that’s what I also know. It’s going to be okay because God is a good author. He is a good storyteller. He is writing a good story for us. And the story ends well.

We won’t see them as good stories if we hold too tightly to our idea of good. In my version of life, disappointment, broken dreams, and loss are not part of the story. But what kind of story would it be if everything was perfect?

A boring story, that’s what. The best stories have conflict. They have twists and turns and nail biting, “What will happen?” moments. And God’s writing the best story for each of us.

The stories God writes are stories of redemption. You can’t have redemption if you don’t have shalom shattered. You can’t have resurrection without death.

This week is a holy reminder that it’s going to be okay. Twitter Easter demonstrates His love for us. It is a testimony to God working good on our behalf. The story is one of triumph over the greatest enemy. He made everything okay.

We say this Friday is good, but it didn’t feel good to the disciples. It felt like the end of all their hopes. Disappointment. Broken dreams. Loss. It didn’t feel like it was going to ever be okay.

They didn’t know Sunday was coming. But God knew.

He knew that it was all for love. It was the greatest story ever written. All for us.

So when I slip into bed and anxious thoughts nag at my brain, I call to mind instead His voice telling me, “It’s going to be okay.” As I think about our son heading off to college this summer, and all the unknowns that go with that, He whispers, “It’s going to be okay.” I sigh my latest dilemma to my husband, and I hear him catch himself before he says it, but I nod, and say, “You’re right. It’s going to be okay.” 

When life feels like Friday, it’s going to be okay, because Sunday’s coming.

He loves us. Everything is working for our good. The story ends well. Maybe not today, or tomorrow. Maybe not until we see Him. But it’s going to be okay.

Related posts:

What to Do When It’s Hard 

This Kind of Jesus 

never miss a post

The Challenge to Rejoice and Weep With Others

Gina Butz relationships 0 Comments

The Challenge to Rejoice and Weep with Others

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

After Hurricane Irma last fall, as I scrolled through my Facebook feed, I saw people rejoicing that their power had returned after the storm. Some never lost it in the first place.

I wanted to be happy for them, but it was hard when we were staring down day 3 without it. Days after that, we still had friends without power. I’m guessing they struggled even more than we did.

Sometimes it’s hard to rejoice with those who rejoice.

In the course of just a few weeks, we saw devastation in Texas, the Caribbean, and Florida. People lost everything. Yet as I scanned comments on articles about the aftermath, my heart broke over remarks flinging judgment at choices made to stay or go. Contempt poured over people where instead empathy was needed. Rather than entering others’ pain, people stood at a distance and thanked God it wasn’t them.

Sometimes it’s hard to weep with those who weep.

Romans 12:15 says, “rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” Both are challenging.

I used to think it was harder to weep with others, but lately, I see the challenge in celebrating as well.

Oh, it’s easy to do if I am in an unrelated situation, or I have already found my own happiness in a similar one. But when we share the same hunger, and you are fed while I am not, how do I enter in well? How do I set aside my lack to rejoice in your plenty?

There is the couple who longs for a child, watching their friends easily conceive. Consider single friends who watch as yet another friend gets married. Think of the one who is overlooked while a co-worker is elevated. My friend’s child succeeds but mine fails. He loses weight but you don’t.

How can we truly rejoice with others?

Rejoicing with others is a choice

The simple but hard answer is: it’s a choice we make. If we refuse to rejoice with others, we not only diminish their joy, we lose ours as well. Rejoicing when it’s challenging humbles us, reminding us not to hold tightly to the things of the world. When we do that, it’s a greater sacrifice of love.

But rejoicing with others does not mean we kill our own desires. In fact, we hold them steady. That requires us to do something else: allowing ourselves to mourn what we lack.

Weeping with others begins with ourselves

Rather than minimizing, ignoring, spiritualizing, or pouring contempt on our own pain, we enter it. We cannot weep with others if we do not weep for ourselves.

Oh, I know, that sounds scary, wrong even. We’re afraid we’ll get lost in the emotion, that we’re not exhibiting faith.

But when we acknowledge our own unmet desires, God meets us in them. Then, we receive His compassion and comfort. The more we allow ourselves to weep over our own pain, the greater our capacity to weep with others in theirs.

Rejoicing or weeping: either option requires that we hold someone’s pain-our own or someone else’s. That’s why it’s so hard to do.

We must be uncomfortable in order to be connected.

But when we are connected in this way, it is powerful and life-giving. That is why we are asked to do it in scripture, and why we must strive to do it well.

What’s harder for you? To rejoice with others when you are struggling? Or to weep with others, when they’re the ones experiencing trials?

Related posts:

Open the Door to Others

Being Human

Learning to Walk (at an Unhurried Pace)

Gina Butz grace, rest 3 Comments

Learning to Walk: Slowing Down a Too Busy Pace

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

I shopped at Costco recently, and I realized, “I’m casually browsing.”

I don’t remember the last time I casually browsed anywhere. Most of my shopping expeditions are like ninja missions, “You have eight minutes. GO!”

This is one of the by-products of reclaiming my life.

It began a few months ago when I made the decision to step out of one of my roles at work. It was a tough choice, but one made from a place of humility: I was simply doing too much.

I felt called to slow my life to a walking pace.

In the months since it feels like my soul suddenly has space to breathe. You know that feeling after a big meal when you go switch into your elastic waistband pants? That feeling.

I’m finding margin in my life again. It feels good, for the most part. But it’s not without its challenges.

See, I’m used to running through life. So this invitation to walk, while inviting, is foreign. Walking is easier, and more sustainable, but I am not very good at it.

I know how to run. During my brief stint as an actual runner, I remember the challenge of faster, farther. No matter how hard a run was, the minute I finished my first thought was, “I bet tomorrow I could improve.”

It’s addictive, that kind of living.

Faster. Farther. More. Better. Longer. Squeezing every ounce of life out of every day, pushing the edges of our capacity, filling the margins until there’s no white space. After a while, we don’t know what it looks like not to run.

So in this process of learning to slow down, I’m finding I need to wrestle with two parts of me: my body, and my mind.

My body simply isn’t accustomed to breathing space. Just because your body slows down it doesn’t mean your heart rate does. In other words, just because you make space on the outside doesn’t mean your heart and soul know how to be still on the inside.

In this slower pace, I’m aware of how amped up my body can get. What used to feel like energy I realize now was anxiety, my body gearing up for a fight. I’m relearning how to breathe regularly, to notice when my body tenses involuntarily. Yoga helps.

And then there’s the mental battle. I find myself thinking, “But I could do more. Look! Open space in my schedule. I should fill it.”

It’s all fueled by deeper voices.

Some of those voices say, “See? I knew you couldn’t hack it. You’re just average.” Others say, “But people need you.” And still others, “They’ll be so disappointed.” And the worst for me, “Lazy bum.” The voices whisper that running is better. Faster. Farther. More.

The voices are wrong.

I recently read Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist, which in many ways gave me the courage to move this direction. In it, she says, “I’m going to find a new way of living that allows for rest, as much as I need, not just enough to get me through without tears, but enough to feel alive and whole, grounded and gracious.” 

This is what I hope walking through life will do for me-I will feel wholly alive, grounded and gracious.

I want to walk at a pace that allows me to keep time with the slowest person in my life. Lingering with, resting alongside, listening to, and seeing others. I have a suspicion that the more I do, the more grace I will give the person inside me who needs to be slow, weak, needy.

Walking helps me love.

It’s hard to love well when we’re running through life.Twitter I might wave as I pass you by, but I can’t be fully present. My hope is that as I rest, so can you. As I live in the space God has given me, not striving ahead or pushing the edges, I hope my life gives freedom to others to do the same.

I’m not there yet. Living an unhurried life is a battle in this world. But I’m encouraged by the ways I already feel more available and present for the people and passions that hold my heart.

So feel free to ask me how my walking is going, or pull me aside when you see my pace start to pick up too much. It’s a journey. I’d love for you to join me.

 

I wrote an 8-day devotional a while ago. It seems appropriate to offer it again, in light of this post. You can get it below! 

Related posts:

Warning: Don’t Forget to Breathe

Keeping a Sabbath Heart

never miss a post

5 Things to Do When Life Is Good

Gina Butz expectations, gratitude, rest, transition 4 Comments

4 Things To Do Life is Good

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

Recently, my husband and I tried to arrange a night out with some good friends. He suggested staying in, and I replied, “Oh, you know how he is-he’ll want to go out instead.” And it hit me: I love that I know this person. He’s someone I did not know prior to life in Orlando. I love that God has given us not just new, but dear, dear friends.

Life feels good right now. Our cups are full. That’s more precious after the rough transition we had to Orlando. We have history here, good history. It is a season of joy, a time to revel in the rich harvest of this place God has given us.

So the natural question becomes: how can we make the most of this?

Because life doesn’t stay put for long. God keeps leading us to new seasons, and some of them are tough. Here’s what God has been encouraging me to do in this time:

5 things to do when life is good
  1. Rest

    Transition takes a toll. Chances are, it took some climbing to get to this spot. God gives us times when our souls can rest. Take a deep breath and look around. Get to know this new landscape God created. Don’t spend energy looking back at what you left, and don’t waste it trying to prepare for what might be ahead. Just be all here.

  2. Give thanks

    The practice of gratitude is so essential to navigating transition well. When it’s over, it’s tempting to forget where all this goodness comes from. Thank God for bringing you to this place and for every little blessing that you see. Celebrate the heck out of it! The other day I made a list of things I’m grateful for, and I felt God’s absolute pleasure in giving them to me. It’s His joy to bring us to wide open spaces. Realize that fact and respond.

  3. Remember others

    It wasn’t long ago that we were the new people, the ones without community or roots. Those people are all around us, hungry for connection. We could be the one to meet their needs. Remember what it felt like to not be in this place, and ask God to lead you to grab others by the hand and walk well with them. We can give them the strength we feel right now.

  4. Bear witness

    When you’re in the storm of transition, it’s hard to remember that there are places of abundance, solid ground to stand on. Scripture says a good word from a distant land brings hope. We can be that good word to others. Sometimes we’re discouraged from sharing about being in places of blessing when others are struggling. But bearing witness is about giving credit to God, and reminding all of us of His goodness.

  5. Let it fuel the future 

    Life changes constantly, and what carries us through is remembering that God is our anchor. Like I said in my New Year’s post, we look back so we can look forward. Like the Israelites passing over the Jordan, mark this place so that in the future storms that come, you remember His faithfulness. You will expect Him to bring you back to places like this.

When life is good, and our cups are full, we let them overflow.

Overflow with gratitude to the Giver of all good things. Spill the joy you feel into the lives of those around you. Satisfy the thirsty souls who are struggling. Fill your own soul for the journeys to come.

 

Are you in transition right now? Here’s a podcast I did on transitioning well, including a summary of 10 practices that help us navigate transition wholeheartedly. 

What to Do When Gratitude Is Hard 

Plan to Stay

Having Hope in a New Season

never miss a post

 

How to Avoid Being Poor in Spirit

Gina Butz dependence on God, faith 5 Comments

How to Avoid Being Poor in Spirit

Photo by Norman Toth on Unsplash

 

“The poor in spirit . . . have made peace with their flawed existence.”

I remember reading this quote from Brennan Manning when I was barely out of college. It did not sit well. Poor in spirit? Doesn’t sound fun. Flawed existence? Eesh.

But he spent a lot of time talking about being poor in spirit in his book The Ragamuffin Gospel. While he spoke of it as something to emulate, it brought to mind worthlessness, weakness, helplessness, being lesser. I wanted none of that. When I read in the beatitudes that the poor in spirit inherit the kingdom of God, I thought, “well, at least they get something out of it.”

Fast forward 20 years, and I can’t say that in the interim being poor in spirit was something I even thought about. Until now.

This phrase, “poor in spirit”-I can’t get away from it. When I mention it to others, they say, “That’s not good, right?”

We don’t want to be poor in spirit. I have wondered what it really looks like. So I’ll start with what I know-how to not be poor in spirit.

How to avoid being poor in spirit

If we want to avoid being poor in spirit, we take everything for granted. Believe that whatever we have, we deserve. We have a right to it. That includes religious freedom, answers to prayer, a smaller waistline (c’mon 2018). Come to think of it, we should include salvation in that. After all, we’re decent people.

We should also get the glory for where we are in life. We have gifts and we used them, simple as that. Give us some credit.

Of course, we should rely on our own resources. Don’t admit need or ask for help. We don’t want to be a burden to anyone. People like you better when you pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, right?

Naturally, we should maintain some semblance of control. We can do it all and have it all if we just exercise enough autonomy over our circumstances.

We should be underwhelmed by life in general. The sun comes up every day-no need to be wowed by it every time. If people are kind, loving, generous, or gracious to us, just accept it. No need for gratitude.

But if we do all this, we lose the kingdom.

I don’t know about you, but I’m done being underwhelmed. Relying on myself hasn’t gotten me far. Everything I have is a gift, and I want to treat it as such. There but for the grace of God go I, in every single thing. I want that truth to permeate my being.

So what does it look like to be poor in spirit? Here’s where I’m starting:

The poor in spirit are humble. The truth is we have nothing apart from God, and everything with Him. When we are poor in spirit, we own our brokenness and our wholeness, and see ourselves rightly before God and others. We make peace with our flawed existence.

The poor in spirit are generous. If we know nothing we have is ours to begin with, we won’t hold tightly to it. Instead, we will be open-handed, giving and receiving freely. Beggars showing other beggars where to find bread.

The poor in spirit are grateful. When we remember that nothing originates from us, and yet we are swimming in blessing, how can we not be thankful? The first breath we breathe every morning, the work we do, the people we love, the fact that we have purpose, joy, peace, salvation-it is all an undeserved gift.

The poor in spirit are dependent. Dependent not only God but on others. Our weaknesses will not drive us to hide but to lean. Daily bread will be our food, limping our stance, and all without shame.

I want the kingdom.

So this is my intention for 2018: to live out what it means to be poor in spirit. I’m still learning what it means, but I’m going to start with this: humble, generous, grateful, and dependent.

What about you? What is your intention for 2018?

Related posts:

The Soul Needs

Open the Door to Others

Go to the Well

never miss a post

When “Do Not Be Anxious” Isn’t Enough

Gina Butz anxiety, dependence on God, faith, truth 1 Comment

When "do not be anxious" isn't enough

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

After an intense October and November last year, I finally found a day to catch my breath. Or rather, to realize how hard it was to breathe at all. My chest was tight, my heart rate elevated. All the activity of those months left much undone, and the strain of getting my footing back was overwhelming.

Most of my tension stemmed from feeling I had not planned well. I had failed to keep a restful pace. I felt pressure to live up to an image of the working mom who can have it all and set a good example doing it. And in the middle of all of it was a lack of trust that God would help me through it.

But the Bible says we shouldn’t be anxious, right? Anxiety means somewhere along the way, I must have lost faith or perspective or something.

When it arises, my desire is to eradicate it as soon as possible. Leave those negative feelings behind. So I try to do what others tell me to do, and claim Philippians 4:6, “do not be anxious about anything.”

I wish “do not be anxious” was a magic wand that instantly wiped away all the feels every time worrisome thoughts pop up. It would dissolve the physical manifestation of anxiety as well as the emotional strain.

Sometimes, when the worries are small, it does the trick. It brings my mind and heart back to the right place.

But sometimes, “do not be anxious” just isn’t enough.

Because fueling those anxious thoughts are lies. Skewed perspectives. Ruts of wrong thinking. They do not easily leave.

Behind my anxiety about my schedule is often the lie that my value comes from doing more, being successful. Worry grows when I slip into thinking I can control my world, keep all the bad from happening, make all the good come into being. The more I focus on my worries, the more my heart loses faith that He will care for me.

Those lies do not simply vanish. Our hearts will not naturally drift back to the truth on their own. We have to address what got us off course in the first place.

It’s a little like the “Just Say No” campaign from the 80’s, which failed miserably. Why?

Because while we told people to say no to something, we did not tell them what to say yes to instead. Those underlying needs that drove people to drugs were still there.

So while the admonition, “do not be anxious” is true, in order to live it well, we need to dig deeper. We can’t just say no. We need to say yes to something else.

When we say yes to truth, we can say no to anxiety.

So I go back to the words that whisper my worth, not in what I do, but who He is. I feed on His faithfulness to remind me that whatever is coming, He’s got it, just like before. When I feel the pressure to perform, I read and re-read the invitations to rest, breathe, trust. I tell myself the gospel over and over so I remember who is God and who isn’t (namely, me).

And on and on it goes. To not be anxious, we must soak ourselves in truth. Bathe in it. Breathe it in. Feed on it. Fill our minds with it so there’s no room for anything else. When we live again in what is true about us, and about Him, we can relax.

We need to talk to ourselves more than we listen to ourselves. 

It’s not always easy. It takes intentionality. But the peace that doesn’t make any sense at all in light of our circumstances is waiting at the end of our fight.

“Do not be anxious about anything” is absolutely true. There is no reason to fear anything. Peace is ours for the taking. To get there, we need to examine why we are anxious in the first place. How is the enemy lying to us? Where have our minds and hearts gone astray? What truth do we need to embrace?

Whatever is weighing our hearts, God speaks to it. His word is the yes we need to say no to anxiety.

Related posts:

When Fear Is a Dictator

In Case of Emergency, Remember This

I Don’t Need Rescuing (Except I Do)

never miss a post

How Looking Back Helps Us Go Forward (And Something to Help You Do It)

Gina Butz courage, dependence on God, faith, perspective 5 Comments

 

How Looking Back Helps Us Go Forward

Photo by Luke Porter on Unsplash

A few summers ago, our family spent several weeks in Colorado. Naturally, we hiked. Our kids were not fans. It was, “Too hard, not fun, too hot, not enough snacks,” you name it. We trained our kids not to say, “I can’t do this,” but rather, “I currently struggle with . . .” challenging things. At one point, our daughter commented, “I currently struggle with this mountain.”

Mountain climbing isn’t easy, but I’ve learned one thing that helps me keep going: stopping once in a while and looking back.

When we look back, we see that yes, we actually are making progress. The top is closer. The view is getting better. Just that look back can encourage us to keep pressing on.

As we enter a new year, we do not know what the future holds.

It could be that you are excited about the possibilities. But maybe you’re heading into a new season that is uncertain. Prayers you started last January may sit still unanswered. The path forward might be a tough road. It’s easy to say, “I currently struggle with this,” and want to give up.

So before we move forward, we need to look back.

Recently, I did this with my ministry team at work. On a retreat, we reflected on Joshua 4, when the Israelites crossed the Jordan. After they did, God admonished them to take stones from the river and pile them up in remembrance of what He had done, so that future generations could see His faithfulness.

In the absence of stones, we found a piece of driftwood from the Intracoastal. On one side, we wrote, “we remember . . .” We each took turns writing something God did for us this past year, some way He showed His faithfulness. It was good to reflect on how He has worked good in our lives.

On the other side, we wrote, “therefore we hope . . .”

Therefore. It’s an important word. We hope because we have seen. Looking back, we remind ourselves how far He has brought us. We see that He has been our faithful companion along the path. It is His strength and wisdom that have brought us to this place. He will guide us the rest of the way.

It’s in looking back at His faithfulness that we can move confidently with hope into the future.

When the future looks foggy, look back. When we do, we gain vision for what is ahead. We record the evidence of His faithfulness to chart our way for the future. There will be stones of remembrance to gather when we stop again further down the path. He has loved us too much to stop now. The One who brought us this far will continue on the journey.

Look back so you can keep going forward.

To help you look back, I’ve made an end of the year review for you to do. Just enter your email below and subscribe to receive it. 

Related posts:

Panning for Gold: What to Do When Gratitude Is Hard

Having Hope in a New Season

Are You Looking for God in the Right Places?

never miss a post

The Gift that Snuck into the World (for You)

Gina Butz Christmas 0 Comments

The gift that snuck into the world for you

photo by Wesley Tingey

I was eleven when I decided to play Santa Claus.

Somewhere along the way, I realized it was my parents who filled my stocking, not him. It felt unfair that they filled mine and not the other way around. I wanted to give them a gift.

So a few days before Christmas, I trekked to the flower shop my aunt owned, where I purchased two little apple ornaments. My aunt painted my parents’ names on them for me.

I could barely sleep on Christmas Eve. 3 a.m. seemed like the perfect time for my stealth mission, so I set an alarm. When it chimed, I crept down the stairs and tucked those ornaments into my parents’ stockings.

The next morning, while everyone else dug in, I watched. My parents pulled out the unexpected items and gave them curious stares. Looking back, they must have thought it was a gift from the other, and not the snazziest gift ever. I didn’t care. I was so happy to give them something nothing else mattered.

This story came to mind recently as I look ahead to Christmas. I can see how, in a way, it’s reflective of the nativity.

Because you see, there is no Santa Claus (I apologize to anyone whose child might be reading over their shoulder). But there is Someone who gives and gives, to everyone, everywhere.

Can you imagine His anticipation of Christmas? Not just a few days, or weeks, but years upon years. How did He stand the waiting? He knew what He had in store.

And then, at just the perfect time, He snuck Jesus into the world. What an unassuming package.

Most people didn’t even know what happened that night. Those who did had to wonder, “Is this it? Is this what we’ve been waiting for?” This baby was so unexpected.

I imagine God watching it all unfold, so overjoyed to give us this gift. He knew what it meant for them, and what it would mean for us, 2,000 years later.

I want the exchange of gifts this year to remind me of this truth: He is present in every one of them. We give because He gave. The joy we experience is a pale reflection of the joy He has in seeing His plan fulfilled.

There is no greater gift, and He rejoices to give it to us.

 

Related posts:

How to Have the Perfect Christmas

Why Christmas Reminds Me to Hope in God

Ask God for the Pony 

never miss a post

Do You Know What You’re Worth?

Gina Butz Christmas, faith 2 Comments

And the soul felt its worth

In a Bible study on listening prayer, we were told to ask God, “How much do you love me?” and wait for a response.

While I fully believe God speaks to us, I don’t usually just sit there and wait for an answer. I have more of a “so . . . get back to me on that when you’ve got a chance” attitude. But this time, I just listened and this is what He said: The cross.

Now, I know what Christ did on the cross demonstrates His love for me, but at times it feels a little impersonal. Christ died for me, but He died for everyone. It’s like saying, “You’re unique, just like everyone else.” Who’s to say I didn’t get caught up in the cosmic mix of humanity?

So I said, “God if that’s your answer, you’re going to have to unpack that.” And of course, He did.

A couple weeks later, I watched the movie, First Knight. As I watched, God said, “Gina, that’s what I did for you. Lancelot diving into the water, jumping through fire, fighting the enemy for Gueneviere? That’s what I did at the cross. That desire you have in you for a hero who will sneak into enemy territory, break down the walls, slay the dragon, climb the highest tower because of his love for you – I am that hero.”

The cross was not simply an act of the will, but a passionate, daring, emotion-driven rescue of those He loved more than life itself.

It didn’t start with the cross though. God’s love to us showed up on earth as a helpless, vulnerable baby in the arms of an ordinary girl.

“Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, till He appeared, and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.” (best lyric of a Christmas song ever).

In that moment, He told us how much we’re worth to Him.

We’re worth being cold and hungry and tired and tempted and tried and misunderstood and hated. He was willing to come through a humble birth to live a humble life in order to rescue us.

And all so that one day, He could be our hero, come to our rescue, and save us from death itself. That’s how much we’re worth.

I hope in all the busyness of this season, we hold fast to that. Feel your worth, friends: worth living for, and worth dying for.

 

Related posts:

How to Have the Perfect Christmas

Are You Missing Christmas? 

never miss a post