Monday, November 28, 2016

Advent's Arrival

Luke 2:1-20

"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. 
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, 
      and on earth peace to those on 
          whom his favor rests.” 
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told."

Advent has arrived amidst the busyness of the holiday season from Thanksgiving to Christmas. There is so much going on in this season - family dinners and shopping, parties and gift wrapping, school events, travel plans, and more shopping. In the midst of this busyness Advent is a call for us to slow down and reflect on the coming Christ. In the above passage, Mary gives us a picture of taking time out and slowing down to take these events deep into our hearts.

"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." Luke 2:19

As we read this passage one little word reaches out to us to slow down: "But". Mary pauses and takes time to reflect and ponder on the news the angels had shared with the shepherds. In the midst of this activity Mary takes time to slow down in order to  take these things deep into her heart.

Engaging in intentional practices during this season offers us a way to slow it down. When we do this we "make room in our hearts for Jesus to fill us", as author Kris Camealy says in her Advent devotional Come, Lord Jesus

Over the past few years I have come to appreciate this habit of intentionally slowing down in the Advent season. In fact, I think this practice has helped me be intentional in making time in my days and weeks for slowing down throughout the year. Busyness can so often creep in and take over our lives without our being aware of it. An intentional habit of slowing down keeps our eyes open to the effects that busyness can have on our lives, our health and our relationships. For me, this slowing down and making room in my heart for Jesus to fill it, comes through practices of reading and making art.

This season I'm reading Come, Lord Jesus: the Weight of Waiting by Kris Camealy (find it on Amazon here). I made an art journal to record my thoughts from the daily readings (tutorial for my Advent art journal is here). Kris' daily devotional readings run from December 1 -25 so I'll start posting my daily pages on December 1st. I'm also participating in a book club for Kris' book on Christina Hubbard's blog, Creative and Free (click on title).

Friday, November 18, 2016

Be a Blessing Part 2

This month I am the guest contributor for devotions at the His Kingdom Come community. Their focus this year has been on who God says we are; our Christian DNA. They have explored this theme through bi-monthly "I am" statements. November's theme is "I am blessed to be a blessing".  

TMD-DNA November 18, 2016
“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Acts 20:35 
The above saying of Jesus is not found in any of the gospels, but, as the Apostle John says in his gospel, if everything Jesus said and did were written down “the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25) Jesus shared many principles with his disciples that point us to live a lifestyle of giving – giving our time, our money, our stuff, and ourselves. The Bible offers us two main reasons why we are to adopt a lifestyle of giving. 

1. Giving imitates God. 
To say that it is more blessed to be a giver implies that giving is a great privilege. It is such a great privilege because when we make giving a lifestyle, we are most Christ-like. Giving imitates God. Look at just a few passages of Scripture that show what a great giver God is: 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—“ Ephesians 2:8 

“ For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9 

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17 

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28 

“ (Jesus Christ) who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” Galatians 1:4

2. Giving is our response to God’s great generosity to us. 
Giving imitates the Father, who willingly and sacrificially gave His Son. Giving imitates the Son, who willingly and sacrificially gave His life. Through His Son, God gave us life, salvation and the gift of living with Him eternally. Our response to these incredible gifts should be to give to others willingly and sacrificially, out of gratitude and as an act of worship and praise to God. 

“Freely you have received; freely give.” Matthew 10:8 

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” 1 John 3:16-17 

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” 2 Corinthians 9:8-11 

As we respond to God by imitating His giving nature, we trust in Him to provide for our own needs. Sometimes what keeps us from giving, whether it's time or money, is worry about our own provision or that of our family. Read Matthew 6:25-34 this week and see Jesus' answer for our concerns. He begins the passage telling us, "Do not worry about your life....". He then gives examples from His created world of how the Father cares for and provides for them, and then reassures us in verse 32 that our heavenly Father knows what we need. God is our provider and our caretaker. The passage ends with Jesus' call on us to trust the Father for our needs to be met and not to worry. "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Many of us have learned this principle when we have stepped out in faith and began to actually tithe. When we trust God and obey His call to live by His ways,He provides. The same principle we learn with tithing is true for giving of our time, our stuff, and ourselves. God has called us to be givers and to be generous and sacrificial in our giving. Our role is to seek Him, trust Him and to obey Him. He's got the rest! The thing about stepping out and being involved in others lives to the extent that you are giving fully of yourself, is that you will find in the end that you will feel even more blessed than they do. We will be pleasantly surprised as we experience more of God’s power and Presence in our own life as a result of obediently responding to and imitating His generosity and love.

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” 
 Ephesians 5:1-2

Worship Video: "All That I Am" by Rend Collective (Click on title to follow link)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Advent Art Journal Tutorial

I have a "thing" for office supplies. Walking into an office supply store or a paper store is a little slice of heaven! So over the years I have combined that "thing" with my other "thing" ... art journaling. That combination of "things" appears in my Advent art journal this year. This summer while hunting vintage items with my sister, I came across some wonderful old pressboard report covers. I purchased them and stuck them away for a future project. Amazingly while in the midst of a creative slump, I got the inspiration to make a journal out of them and use it for my Advent project this year.

I began Advent rather early this year as I had the opportunity in August to join Kris Camealy's pre-launch group for her newest book, Come, Lord Jesus, which is a daily Advent devotion. Using Kris' book, which has 25 devotions, I will make an art journal page each day through the Advent season. My journal has pages set-up that open like a Dutch door.

There are 12 pages that are decorated on each side which will give me 24 pages to use for daily art. I intend to use the inside of the back cover for my entry on Christmas day. As I said a few weeks ago (in this post), I had some report covers left and decided to make a tutorial of my art journal and offer a few limited edition kits for sale. The tutorial is now available on this site. Click on the tutorials link in the menu above. I have a few of the kits left after initially offering them on my previous blog post. They come with a choice of cover paper: A (Christmas pinwheels) or B (winterberries).

Each kit contains a pressboard report cover, the papers to cover the covers, the mini prongs which make the dutch doors, 14 pieces of vintage book pages for the background papers, and a print-out of the tutorial. You can purchase a kit in my Etsy shop. Journey with me through the Advent season beginning November 27 as I make art based on quotes and Scripture from Kris' book.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

In the Waiting - Guest Post for Kris Camealy

Yesterday I had the privilege to write a guest post on Kris Camealy's blog for her new book, Come, Lord Jesus. I have been a member of her pre-launch team for the past few months, reading the book in advance, and now promoting it here on my blog. Pop over to Kris' blog to read my post. But don't forget to come back here to read about my Advent plans!

For a number of years I have used art journaling to help me slow down the Christmas season and really immerse myself in the Advent experience. I will generally use an online devotion or book as my prompts and then make art in my Advent journal as a response. This year I intend to use Kris' book of daily devotions. 

I have made an art journal for Advent in one of my favorite manners: I altered an office supply item. I took a pressboard report cover and altered it's layout to make pages that open like a dutch door does.

I have had a blast making this journal and using Kris' book for my art prompts. You can follow along on my blog. I'll post daily beginning on the first day of Advent, November 27. I am also going to offer a free tutorial on how to make this type of journal. It will be available here on my blog a week or so before Advent begins. PLUS, I have enough materials left to offer a few limited edition kits for this journal. The kits will  include a pressboard report cover, the paper to cover the covers (in a choice of two patterns), the mini prongs which make the dutch doors, 14 pieces of vintage book pages for the background papers, and the instructions on how to make the book.

All of this for $12.00! As I said, the kits will be available in my Etsy shop probably in the next week or so. I currently have 9 available and may have 5 more in addition to those. The number I have available is based on the cover paper I have on hand. If you are interested in claiming a kit in advance of the release of them in my shop then send me an email at

If you are interested in reading Come, Lord Jesus through Advent there is also a four-week Advent book club taking place on Christina Hubbard's website, Creative and Free, beginning November 27.  I plan to participate in the book club as well as my art journal.

So, those are my plans for Advent this year! Check out Kris Cameally's blog. If you go back over the past few weeks you can read what other guest writers have to say about the book and about waiting on God in general. Watch here for the release of both the Advent journal tutorial and the journal kits in my Etsy shop. Plus, why not take a minute and share with me in the comment section below how you slow down and experience the Advent season. What are your Advent traditions?

Friday, November 4, 2016

Be a Blessing

This month I am the guest contributor for devotions at the His Kingdom Come community. Their focus this year has been on who God says we are; our Christian DNA. They have explored this theme through bi-monthly "I am" statements. November's theme is "I am blessed to be a blessing". 

November 4, 2016

In 2002 Rick Warren wrote the book "The Purpose Driven Life" which quickly became a best seller and topped the New York Times Bestseller list for over 90 weeks. The first line of page one, chapter one says, "It's not all about you". That statement is followed by this paragraph: 
 "The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose."
"It's not all about you". This is a great statement to take into our hearts and minds in a culture that is very "me-centered". Even in the church community we can forget that we have been given a call to look to the needs of others. A number of years ago my church community did an extensive search through the Bible exploring God's call on His people. Out of that journey we saw a call for God's people to be focused on others and to be generous in our care and love for other people. There is a saying now that we use in our church community to express all that this call of God envisions: Blessed to be a blessing. 

From the very beginning God has always had a plan that His people would be a blessing to others. In fact, many times it is through His people that God himself blesses others. God's call began with Abram (Abraham) in Genesis 12:2-3 and it is in this passage that the saying can be found. 

“I will make you into a great nation, 
  and I will bless you
I will make your name great, 
  and you will be a blessing
I will bless those who bless you, 
  and whoever curses you I will curse; 
and all peoples on earth 
  will be blessed through you.” 

God laid the groundwork with Abraham for how he sees the role of his people in the world. “I will bless you and you will be a blessing to others.” Unfortunately, for most of the Old Testament history the Israelites kept their blessings to themselves. Then Jesus comes on the scene and calls us back to God’s others-focused intent for us. Through His words and His actions, Jesus showed us how to live as the people of God. After washing his disciples feet in John 13, a job that in that day would have been done by a servant not their teacher and Lord, Jesus tells his disciples (and us): 

 “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:15 

He goes on to tell them in John 13:34 that the greatest of God’s commandments is to love God and love others, and that by loving others we will reveal God to them. (John 13:35, 1 John 4:12) throughout the New Testament we find 91 verses that call us to a lifestyle of focusing on "one another". God does not bless us so that we will hoard those blessings and keep them to ourselves. 

Paul shared this same message with the Corinthian church: 
“God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done. As one psalmist puts it, 
He throws caution to the winds, 
 giving to the needy in reckless abandon. 
His right-living, right-giving ways 
 never run out, never wear out. 
This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.” 2 Corinthians 9:8-11, The Message 

Sharing God’s blessings with others shows God’s grace at work in our lives.

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