Transparent

There’s a buzzword in Christian circles – “transparent”. We say that it’s a good thing and it basically means to be honest and open. When you’re transparent you’re not a pretender. You’re real about your life, your feelings, where you are in your journey with Jesus. My grandmother would probably have balked at that word. I’m sure they didn’t use it much in her day, or my Mother’s day, or even early in my day. I’ve been a Christian for 24-years and it’s probably only in the past 15-years that I’ve been hearing that word among my brothers and sisters-in-Christ.

Why do we even need that word? Because Christians are excellent pretenders and some of us finally got to the point where we couldn’t stand the pressure. Constantly wearing our “happy church faces” is exhausting. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re happier. It doesn’t exempt you from the harshness of life and having bad things happen to you. It only means that you deal with it a little differently because someone else is steering the boat. Someone with a much greater knowledge of what’s ahead and how to navigate.

I was raised by professional women. My mother was a secretary and an entrepreneur. My grandmother was an all-around businesswoman, active in the Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Sons of Hermann, and very professional. My grandma taught me to put my best foot forward and how to project a professional image. I never saw her cry. I never heard her complain. I never saw her without her hair and makeup done until she was in her 70’s and battling Alzheimer’s. I adored my grandma and she was a strong role model for me. She also was not a professing Christian. “Transparent” she was not and neither was I for most of my adult life.

I still struggle a bit with the whole transparency issue. I believe there is such a thing as TMI (too much information). I also don’t like to be a downer, and I am terribly vain. I prefer to have it all together and look it. I have a couple of people in my life with whom I share any deep dark feelings that come along, and even then I do my best to sugar-coat it a little. I remember one time when I was totally and completely transparent and that was when I shared my salvation testimony with my home church. Afterward, I was amazed at the amount of people who told me how shocked they were at my history. They would never have guessed any of it to look at me. That told me that either I was a really good pretender still, or the transforming work of Jesus truly is miraculous. I prefer to believe the latter. Especially since I was on a quest at the time to be more real and drop my “happy church face” (unless I really was happy, of course 😊).

We are called to “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. . .” -James‬ ‭5:16‬ ‭NLT‬. ‬ We are also to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” -Romans‬ ‭12:15‬ ‭NASB. We can’t do these things without being transparent with one another; honest and vulnerable. It’s not easy, I know, especially for those of us who are more old school . . . and it’s not impossible. I’ve done it and I’m getting better at it with the Lord’s help. There is no perfection this side of eternity. NO ONE person and NO ONE’S life is perfect, no matter how it looks on Facebook or Instagram. Trying to pretend perfection is, I have come to believe, a waste of energy.

While I always have a reason to be joyful in Christ, I may not always be happy and that’s okay. Jesus never promised me a life of constant happiness and freedom from trouble. Quite the opposite, in fact. Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” -John‬ ‭16:33‬ ‭NLT‬‬‬‬. He has overcome the sin that caused this fallen world we live in and one day all will be made right! What a great thing to rejoice over! In the meantime, happiness that depends on circumstances comes and goes.

We Christians are called to be there for each other and to remind one another of our source of joy. We give each other hope, encouragement, comfort and friendship in a very special way. We call it fellowship – “friendly association, especially with people who share one’s interests”. -Merriam Webster’s Dictionary. However, if we don’t know that someone has a need it’s difficult to meet it. If we constantly are upbeat and look and act like all is well, that’s what most people are going to think of us – that we’re okay – regardless of the truth of the pain we hide inside.

I’m still a work in progress and will be for the rest of my life. I’m still working on the whole transparency thing and that’s key – that I keep doing the work and don’t give up. It’s difficult at times. Pride is a huge obstacle to transparency, and pride is a big part of human nature. Fortunately, with God all things are possible – even overcoming pride! “Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” -Matthew‬ ‭19:26‬ ‭NLT‬‬

😊💕

Focusing on the Christ in Christmas – Epilogue

“For, At just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. He alone can never die, and he lives in light so brilliant that no human can approach him. No human eye has ever seen him, nor ever will. All honor and power to him forever! Amen.” -‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭6:15-16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Christmas is such a wonderful time of year. Even amidst the sadness and turmoil of this world, special cheer and goodwill can be found. Somewhere in the twinkling lights, beautiful music, and overall atmosphere of the holidays, a little joy can be found for even the saddest heart. That’s what I believe anyway, and I believe it because my heart gets very sad at times, even (or maybe especially) at Christmas.

Remembering loved ones who are no longer here, or missing loved ones who live far away can spark a whole slew of melancholy emotions. There is plenty in this world to be sad about and if I choose to dwell in “MelancholyvilleI could be sad my whole life! Wouldn’t THAT be fun! Not! So, instead of focusing on Christmas memories that make me sad, or the whole commercial aspect of Christmas I choose to focus on the true meaning.

Christmas means that I have a best friend who is bigger and stronger than any bad or sad thing that could happen in my life. It means that I am saved from the penalty of every sin I’ve ever committed. The baby whose birth we celebrate grew up to be the Savior of my soul! Actually, He was BORN to be the Savior of every soul that accepts Him as such!It’s about so much more than trees, presents, and twinkle lights. It’s about eternity and where I’m going to spend it, and it’s about navigating this fallen world with someone who has already overcome it!

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to read my humble thoughts on things. I am forever grateful for that first Christmas and everything it means for me. I am so thankful for the blessing of my family as well and I’m taking these next few days before Christmas Day to focus on them and the One whose birth we celebrate.

Wishing you a blessed and meaningful Christmas full of more love and joy than you’ve ever known!
Merry Christmas!
Brenda 🎄😊💕

Focusing on the Christ in Christmas – Day 12

“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” -John‬ ‭14:2-3‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Not only did Christ come to be with us that first Christmas, He has promised to come back. This time, not as a babe in a manger, but gloriously descending from heaven to claim His people! “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” -1 Thessalonians‬ ‭4:16-17‬ ‭NASB‬‬

These truths give me such hope! No matter what goes wrong in my life, I have a glorious future in heaven with Jesus, in a place that He personally has prepared for me! This breath of a life here on earth pales in comparison. As a person living with a chronic illness, that hope is my lifeline. Jesus is my lifeline! That was true even before the illness. I have simply developed an even greater appreciation.

I am so incredibly thankful for that first Christmas and I eagerly anticipate His triumphant return! I not only celebrate His birth and all the gifts He brought with Him, I also celebrate what His birth means for my future. “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” -‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬ ‭NASB‬. ‬

Wishing you hopeful eyes toward the future as you celebrate that blessed event of the past!
😃💕

Focusing on the Christ in Christmas – Day 11

“But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.” -‭‭Psalms‬ ‭13:5‬ ‭NASB‬‬

The greatest gift is love. The Bible tells us so. “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” -1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:13‬ ‭NASB‬‬. The word “love” is found in the NASB Bible 205 times. Loving is the greatest commandment: “And He said to him, ” ‘ YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘ YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’” -Matthew‬ ‭22:37-39‬ ‭NASB‬‬. And love is what God gave to us that first Christmas. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” -John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭NASB‬‬

The thing is, God’s love is not like our love. His love for us is perfect, unconditional, and abiding (forever and ever). It is not dependent on our performance or behavior. That’s a hard thing for me to wrap my brain around. Maybe it is for you too. Finite minds struggle with the idea of an infinite God loving us infinitely. But, it’s the truth and if nothing else, I pray that Christmas brings us a true grasp of that infinite, unconditional, perfect love. That first Christmas was a gift of pure love!

Wishing you receptivity to His unfailing love this Christmas!
😊💕

Focusing on the Christ in Christmas – Day 10

“. . . resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” -Colossians‬ ‭2:2b-3‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Reading this verse, I thought of the Magi and the gifts that they brought baby Jesus. Did they realize the gift that this child was Himself? Did they know that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge were hidden in Him? They brought gifts for the gift-bearer. I find that interestingly ironic.

I could go deeper into this subject and perhaps I will another time. The point I want to make here is that every gift we’ve ever received or given pales in comparison to the gifts we receive when Jesus Christ is our “Reason for the season”. “ALL the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are in Him and we have access to Him! Think about that for a minute . . . . . . . did you let it sink in?

I don’t know about you, but running around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to make sure everything is perfect, doesn’t seem very wise. We’re celebrating a birth that may have been perfect, but it was humble – and probably pretty dirty. We’re talking about a stable. It’s not about perfection, or fancy, or impressive. It’s about love and humility, and being thankful for an extraordinary gift bearing even more gifts. It’s gifts upon gifts with Jesus.

I’m preaching to the choir here folks! I’m as guilty as anyone of getting caught up in the hoopla. I just love it all so much! It’s so pretty! Enjoying it is great. Getting stressed out over it all – not so much. When I feel my blood pressure rising I know it’s time to take a step back and refocus. The only gift that really matters is love. The kind of love that God showed us when He sent His only son, in the form of a babe, bringing the gift of eternal life and so much more! What a generous God we serve!

Wishing you a Christmas overflowing with love!
💜❤️🧡💛💚💙 🥰

Focusing on the Christ in Christmas – Day 9

“Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”” -John‬ ‭3:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, let us also celebrate our rebirth into eternal life! That is, after all, why He came – to give those who would believe in Him, eternal life. He blesses us with a spiritual rebirth; a new heart, new purpose, new attitude. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” -2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬. He makes all things new.

As crunch time approaches, especially, let’s remember who we are in Christ. Let’s not revert back to the old patterns of impatience, grumbling, and complaining. It’s a challenge, believe me, I know. Christmas is less than ten days away and there’s still so much to do! Keep re-evaluating when you get stressed. Not every gift has to be wrapped perfectly and exquisitely, not every decoration has to have twinkle lights, and not every person you’ve ever met will hate you forever if they don’t get a Christmas card.

When we take our eyes off of what we are really celebrating, even if you’re not a believer and your celebration is centered around the season and family, we get stressed out. Do the kids really care if everything is not perfect? My kids don’t. They’d rather have a happy mom than all the fancy trimmings. When it comes down to it, spending peaceful, quality time with loved ones is what most people really want. There are always exceptions, but that’s for another post.

We have so much to celebrate and be thankful for! Not only the birth of our Savior – the actual reason for the season, but our own rebirth, should we choose to accept it.

Wishing you a Christmas full of life!
😊💕

Focusing on the Christ in Christmas – Day 8

“That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”” -Luke‬ ‭2:8-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

When my boys were small we had a Story Keepers VHS of the Christmas story. In it was a magnificent scene of the heavenly host praising God over the birth of Jesus. It brought tears to my eyes and it was animated! I can only imagine what it would have been like to see such a thing in person!

Childlike wonder is often lost to us grownups. I guess we just outgrow being so easily impressed? We know and understand more and so are harder to impress, I guess. The thing is, there is SO much about God that we don’t know or understand. I find that with Him, my childlike wonder is still intact. I am in awe of Him and all that He has done. Much like I imagine the shepherds were on that first Christmas night, observing a sky full of angels singing praises to God. Wow!

Imagine what it would have been like to be one of those shepherds on that first Christmas night and celebrate the birth of our Savior with inexplicable joy and childlike wonder!

Wishing you a wonder-filled Christmas season!
😃💕