Moving Out, Moving On, Moving Up – Part 8


It’s the day after Christmas.

And all through the house…it’s quiet even in the late morning hours. We celebrated with family and friends and way too much food. I’m sure many people did. Then we sobered for a few moments to lift up silent prayers for those who were without running water and food to nourish them let alone satisfy their cravings. Even without many things, we are so incredibly blessed, aren’t we?

Even as we acknowledged how good God is and has been to us, my heart broke for a dear friend who discovered a deep betrayal on Christmas day. We chatted about how much it costs to follow Jesus. Sometimes it means people we love will walk away from us. Or it may mean we live without something we long for in order to be part of a bigger plan God has for impacting others’ lives. Through our tears, we agreed that it’s worth it. As hard as this past season has been, we wouldn’t change a thing.

All of the wonderful celebrations praising God at church, hearing that many gave their lives to Jesus, eating and laughing with friends and family, and considering the evil and hurt ravaging the world leaves me pensive. This morning as I reflect in the quiet after a time of silently worshiping Jesus through headphones so as not to disturb those sleeping in peace, I’m stirred in my spirit for the days to come.

God is doing something new.

I read a passage in John 8 (our church’s S.O.A.P. plan verses) that reminded me of a few things.

  • I don’t see all God’s ways. My perspective is limited to the world around me and my experiences. I can’t judge things by human standards. God’s kingdom is another realm that he’s created us through and for. He’s everything from before our human time began to the rest of eternity. He sees all and has already been where I’m going. So, every day I ask God to see from his eyes. I want to take in all he wants me to know and trust him for what I don’t.
  • I want to say and do only what God tells me to. Jesus said he did nothing on his own, but only what his Father taught him to say. If I believe that God sees and knows everything, then why wouldn’t I rely on him to give me words and direct my steps in the very best ways? Besides, I want to please the Father like Jesus did. He loves me, and I want to show that love back to him.
  • I pray that everything I take part in would cause people to put their faith in Jesus. Every single person is created by God, and he longs for a relationship with them. His love means he won’t force anyone, but would persuade us of his love so people would choose to respond. The passage says that after Jesus spoke to the people, many put their faith in him. Are my words and action helping others to see God more clearly so they will choose a relationship with him?

There are only a few days left in this year. I want to make every single day count.

It’s not like on New Year’s Eve everything will shut down (that’s an entirely different subject). But moving into 2022, I want to be ready for whatever God has for us.

I believe that also includes a more permanent place to live. 😉

What are you focusing on this last week of the year?

PS. If you aren’t familiar with S.O.A.P it means we read a Scripture, write our Observations, think about how it can be Applied, and Pray about all of that

Moving Out, Moving On, Moving Up Part 7


Christmas 2013 at the Bennet house

Christmas.

Different this year. Not only for us, but for so many people. Loved ones lost, jobs in limbo, crime escalating through the world.

But even though it may be different because we don’t know where we’ll be, and our Christmas decorations are in storage, is my lack of a Christmas tree going to change the fact that Jesus was born for us?

I don’t think so.

I’m realizing that in the grand, eternal scheme of things much of what we do at Christmas will not make or break it.

Aww…but I want to bake, and decorate, and hang the stockings with care.

Yet, God wants us to reframe our lives and our business to function from a place of his direction. He wants to clear out any distorted thinking, pride, fear, or self-reliance. The Lord is showing us how to live like the original followers of Jesus, funneling his provision through each other to help whoever needs it whether in the church or outside it.

His heart and focus are on those who don’t know him yet or have moved away from him.

He wants us to literally lay down our lives, die to self, and put others needs and interests ahead of our own.

Hey, isn’t that what Christmas is really all about?

God, the Word, came to us in the flesh. Not as God, but laying aside his position, his rights, his authority to be born in a dirty, smelly place with animals. Appearing to the lowliest of the community, the shepherds—who, by the way, knew what it meant to lay down their lives—the angels gave them the privilege of being the first to meet their Savior and spread the news.

After all, who else better to recognize the Lamb of God?

I’ll bet people thought they were crazy.

Maybe they were mocked. Ridiculed. What would a shepherd know about a bright light and a baby king? Did that make any sense?

The mother was a mere girl not even from their town. Really?

Rumors seeped through the community that her husband wasn’t really the father.

I’m pretty sure there are a few folks who wonder what the heck we’re doing. Temporary housing, couch surfing, letting our son fend for himself. (He is a nineteen-year-old college student with a solid job, not twelve, after all.) If I were looking at my life from the outside, I’d wonder what’s going on with us too.

It makes no sense.

Unless…God.

Praying, waiting, worshiping, waiting, reframing our thinking, waiting, searching, waiting…God has given us specific visions. It doesn’t make sense. Nothing can happen without his hand moving mountains. But he fed thousands of people with a few fish and loaves of bread. We’re opening our hands and hold out what we have, believing he will do miracles with that little bit and our sometimes-shaky faith.

Michael Todd, Pastor of Transformation Church in Tulsa, OK in his messages of crazy faith and crazy(er) faith says

“It’s only crazy, until it happens.”

Michael Todd

That’s what Mary and Joseph must have thought when Jesus was born. Maybe it’s what Simeon and Anna, who had waited and prayed for Messiah thought when they met him.

“It’s only crazy, until it happens.”

Then, can we acknowledge that it’s God?

Moving Out, Moving On, Moving Up Part 5


Sometimes we just need to remember what really matters.

In the midst of waiting, confusion, confession, and learning to surrender it all, an unexpected reminder brings us to our knees in humble recognition of the main thing.

Jesus.

Last night, Brendan took our friend and me to see The Chosen Christmas movie. It was a good thing I had a pile of tissue in my purse. The two words that circled my mind during our time in the theater and long after were brilliant and anointed.

Not only is this a top-rate production from every aspect, but it also sent chills through us the entire time.

The music, from old classic Christmas hymns to what will be a couple of new favorites, was superbly done. Children and strings added another layer to the musical treat.

Interviews with the musicians gave us a glimpse into the reality of every day life framed with the message of Christmas.

Each season, we talk about the Christmas story, but never in my life have I ever seen anything like this portrayal. The Bible came alive.

And as if that wasn’t enough—truly, it would have been—in between the magnificent musical numbers and interviews were dramatic monologues given by some of the Chosen actors who spelled out God’s loving plan for the salvation of his children from the beginning of time through today.

It was an evening of awe, worship, and the stunned shaking of our heads at the incredible message handed to us in the most beautiful package.

I’m still marveling at the truth and simplicity of it all as well as the God-given inspiration, talent, and resources that made it happen.

We can’t wait to see it again. And again.

The most important part is that I was reminded of the magnitude of God and his love for us. That we have no way of comprehending his intricate plans for our good. And overall, nothing really matters except for having the most intimate relationship with Jesus who came to us as a baby to be crucified so that through his resurrection, we could be living eternally with our God.

In light of that, our current journey takes on a new meaning.

God has miracles for us. His plans, if we choose to accept them, lead us into great things that will open up the way for others to come to know him. And through it all, he draws us closer to him where we get glimpses of his heart of love for all of us.

What a tremendous reminder.

Today, everything looks different. And so does this Christmas season.

To be continued…

https://www.fathomevents.com/events/The-Chosen-Christmas

The Day After Christmas


‘Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house,

Not a creature was stirring, except for a mouse

He’s eating some crumbs from the day’s Christmas feast

There are cookies and biscuits, cheese crackers at least

The stockings are empty, the toys are in play

The parents exhausted and sleeping all day

Carols and movies are done for the year; farewell to the relatives

We’ve all shed a tear

We waved over Zoom to those stuck at home

Next Christmas we’ll see them – none left alone

The meaning of Christmas still rings in our hearts

A birthday for Jesus is only the start

What if we could share all the love we’ve been given

Not only on Christmas since we’ve been forgiven

The New Year is coming within a few days

It’s never too late to live in new ways

Resolutions we’ve promised may flee out the door

Within a few months, we may be as before

I’m grateful for Jesus.

He gives our lives meaning

A place in God’s presence; on His life, I’m leaning

So even though shopping is done for the season

Let’s focus on Jesus—He is the real reason.

Wishing you and your families  a wonderful Christmas season and Happy New Year!

A Thrill of Hope


“Long lay the world in sin and error pining; ‘Til he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For younder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees…”

Adolphe Charles Adam and Placide Cappeau (French composers)

These words to a favorite Christmas hymn, “O Holy Night” keep ringing in my mind this week as we approach this last week before Christmas.

Our world is weary.

It’s weary because it’s been pining away in sin, offenses, mistakes, and brokenness. Lies, disease, natural disasters, violence top the headlines. And that’s only if you can believe the headlines. The media isn’t our friend.

But I love what this song reminds us of. That in the midst of sin, weariness, and despair, Jesus appears. He comes to say “You’re loved, special, worthy.” His appearance, life, and later death and resurrection speak to us of how worthy we are to him. The Bible says it was for the joy set before him that he came and died and rose again.

That joy is me and you. Jesus came so we can be with him forever.

With God, there is always a glorious, new morning breaking through. He doesn’t leave us in weariness and despair. And we can rejoice.

When Jesus first came, the world had been enslaved and God was silent after centuries of speaking, giving the people what they thought they wanted, and offering them life in him. After 400 years, Jesus showed up.

400 years! We’ve been through nine months of a pandemic and feel as if the world as ended.

But regardless of the length of time in waiting expectantly, today as we celebrate, Jesus is still the same. He hasn’t changed. His message of love and hope is still the same. And all we have to do is one thing.

Fall on our knees.

Acknowledge him. Humble ourselves and confess that we don’t have it all together, don’t know everything, and can’t figure life out on our own. When we come to the end of ourselves, he brings the beginning of new life.

A new and glorious morning…

I’m praying for you this Christmas. May we all be falling on our knees and experiencing the thrill of hope.

Merry Christmas. Jesus loves you.

What’s So Exciting About 2020??


My word for 2020 was EXCITEMENT.

The end of 2019 promised new vision, strategies, success, and growth. My husband and I looked forward to exciting experiences the new year would bring. Only it didn’t come like we expected. Instead it came with grief.

God’s grief for the brokenhearted of the world—those who are weary in their perseverance through loss. His cries for those who have gone their own way into hurt, hatred, violence, and division—his children whom he loves that don’t want to have anything to do with him. I feel his grieving heart as I pray for our community, our nation, and our world.

I believe this year has allowed us to see and know who God is, and what’s important. Being forced to be at home, we’ve had time to spend time with God. We’ve been given a chance to reconnect with our spouses and children. Maybe we’ve learned how to work from home, setting our schedules to adapt to higher priorities. Conversation replaced hours previously spent watching sports or sitcoms. Many families have grown closer to God and each other.

Granted, nothing is what we expected. Disappointment and despair over job and family losses is real. But maybe the 2020 turmoil is what we needed to wake up to a different perspective. What if this year has actually brought more benefit than what we expected? When I choose to look at each day with gratitude, I’m suddenly aware of all we do have; all we’ve learned; new opportunities and strategies for change and growth. Maybe that’s what God has in mind. He’s our hope. Nothing but Jesus can bring us peace in the midst of these terrible storms. That’s what I’ve learned to cling to even more this year.

And that has brought excitement.

Looking forward with excitement as we celebrate Jesus in the weeks to come!

LAURA’S BOOKS

If you’re a book reader or have one on your list, you might be excited to hear of these Christmas deals!

My contemporary fiction, A Deadly Silence, is on sale now through December 15th. In it, Sara Maree Matley unpacks a box that challenges her family with the hardest decision she’s ever had to make. You can get the paperback version here. Kindle version will be FREE for a limited time this Saturday and Sunday December 12 & 13th by going here.

I also have a limited supply of paperback copies of my newest release, When the Wind Blows, that were slightly damaged in shipping. You can receive a signed copy for only $7! That includes media mail shipping in the US. (takes about 7-10 days). These copies have minor flaws such as a bent corner or page or marks on the cover. Use the contact form to order. While supplies last.

AND as my Christmas gift to you, my biblical fiction, Rachel’s Son, about a woman named Rachel who’s son is killed in the Bethlehem massacre, will be FREE in Kindle version from December 23-27th for some Christmas reading. You know how the day after Christmas you don’t know what to do? Now you do! Merry Christmas to you.

I think that’s pretty exciting news! Enjoy!

Heart Sick?


“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

This has been a year of hope deferred, hasn’t it?

We had expectations of how this year 2020—the year of vision and purpose—would pan out. I think it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that most of those plans for this last year did not happen as expected.

I wonder if that’s how the 400 years of captivity felt to the Israelites.

We’ve been through eleven grueling months, but they had to hold onto the prophecies and promises of God for hundreds of years. Palm on face here. I can’t imagine it. Can you?

But here’s the great thing.

Jesus—Emmanuel, God with Us, Prince of Peace, King of kings and Lord of lords—was scheduled by God to arrive. That plan had always been in place. God knew way ahead of time what he was doing.

And it’s no different today.

I have no doubt that God has a plan. It may not look like anything we expect. Just like the arrival of a baby in a remote town, placed in a cave manger with angels singing and shocked shepherds ogling. Not what anyone expected, right?

But it was a longing fulfilled to replace sick hearts whose hope had been deferred for centuries.

As we look forward to the next few weeks leading up to Christmas, we’re in the same place. Looking for hope. Longing for promises fulfilled.

And just as Jesus was that hope a couple thousand years ago, he is still our hope today.

There are a couple of differences.

We haven’t waited for hundreds of years—even if this year of 2020 feels like it’s stretched on for decades or centuries. And also, they didn’t know when to expect Jesus, but we have already seen him. We have the opportunity to not only welcome him into the world as a baby, but welcome him into our hearts and lives as our Savior, Lord, and King.

No matter what the virus or election or protests bring, Jesus is our hope.

And he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

Farewell 2018 – Welcome New Life


DSC_0042

‘Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house,

Not a creature was stirring, except for a mouse

He’s eating some crumbs from the day’s Christmas feast

There are cookies and biscuits, cheese crackers at least

 

The stockings are empty, the toys are in play

The parents exhausted and sleeping all day

Carols and movies are done for the year; farewell to the relatives

We’ve all shed a tear

They’ve driven and flown back home for a time

Next Christmas we’ll see them—celebrations sublime

 

But the meaning of Christmas still rings in our hearts

A birthday for Jesus is only the start

What if we could share all the love we’ve been given

Not only on Christmas since we’ve been forgiven

 

The New Year is coming within a few days

It’s never too late to live in new ways

Resolutions we’ve promised may flee out the door

Within a few months, we may be as before

 

But I’m grateful for Jesus.

His birth and his death give our lives meaning

A place in God’s presence; on His life, I’m leaning

So even though shopping is done for the season

Let’s keep in our hearts Jesus—the reason.

Wishing you and your families  a wonderful Christmas season and Happy New Year!

All I Want for Christmas


DSC_0041All I want for Christmas I already have.

I can’t imagine that on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day you would spend your time reading my blog, but if you’re here, thank you and Merry Christmas.

My opening line may sound cheesy, but it’s actually true.

Jesus was born on Christmas (okay, so please don’t go all historically technical on me here), and He is all I really want for Christmas. I’ve recently discovered in a deeper way that he is truly all I need or desire.

Okay, so I’m not boycotting gift giving or anything.

But, the greatest gift has already been given, and while there are certain situations I’d love to see be different or physical things I would enjoy having, I’m not in want. I have Jesus. He’s given me his love and tremendous peace.

God’s provided for me and comforted me. He’s made a way for me in so many places where it seemed there was NO way. I have family and friends who value me. I’m loved, I’m covered and I’m content.

That’s all I want for Christmas.

I pray you get all you want for Christmas, but may Jesus be the best gift you receive this year. Merry Christmas.

What is the best gift you’ve ever received for Christmas?

What Turned My Heart to Christmas


DSC_0042This year the idea of Christmas has been rough.

With Hurricane Irma, all of us in Florida feel like we lost a month. I’m sure so many others across the country have felt the same with fires, earthquakes, floods and hurricanes robbing us of daily life.

So Christmas crept up with a suddenness that stalled me.

In addition, some personal challenges made it difficult to embrace the season. I cried at the thought of what this year may be like for my family and for so many in my area still struggling to recover from tragedy. But then my heart flipped.

It started with O Holy Night.

A line in that song (one of my personal favorites), says

“…a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.”

I can relate to being weary. Weary of recovering from trauma. Weary of the emotional roller coaster of relational issues. Physically weary of biking each day to a new job. And weary of the spiritual attacks of an enemy that wants to destroy my peace, joy and marriage.

But that is why Jesus came.

And as I sang with our congregation, allowing tears to fall, my heart grew a little hope–a small thrill if you will–that held promise. Just a hint. Because Jesus is my hope. He’s given me such peace and faithfully provided for me during this season of weariness.

This past week I still couldn’t bring myself to play Christmas carols.

But after another day of singing them at church both in our worship service and at another get together, I found my heart opening up to the possibilities. Allowing myself to be swept into the presence of God and gratitude for the birth of our Lord and Savior, I found release in the tears and joy in the celebration.

God calls us to live today. Nothing more. Nothing less.

When the Israelites were in exile for hundreds of years before Jesus came, God told them to live well there. Marry, give in marriage, eat, drink. Live. Don’t waste away because you are in a place that is less than what you’d like it to be.

So I decided to focus on what Christmas is, rather than what it might not be this year.

  1. Christmas is celebrating Jesus coming to a lost, weary world to offer us a way to God.
  2. Christmas is a time for love, joy, peace and hope.
  3. Christmas is about sharing in relationships: friends, strangers and yes, family.
  4. Christmas is about giving. Whatever resources we have. Maybe we don’t have money, but we may have time, or a listening ear, or a hug or gift wrapping skills. We can offer a ride or be a personal shopper. Let’s be creative.
  5. Christmas is about traditions. Keeping some old ones, making some new ones. Memory making lasts forever. Let’s make some good ones.

So I sang my heart out in gratitude to God. I gave what I could to those who needed something. I decorated. Lit advent candles. Put on my favorite Christmas music. And the very things I didn’t think I could bring myself to do have created an atmosphere of peace and joy.

I’m not sure all of what Christmas will look like this year. But at this moment, it looks pretty good.

How have you found a way to embrace Christmas and Christ this season?

If you need a thrill of hope, check out my church’s Thrill of Hope series at NextLevelChurch.com and if you’re in the Southwest Florida area we invite you to celebrate with us on December 23 and 24th during one of our many services at three locations.