• Advent,  Wrapped in Grace

    A Remembering People

    Welcome friends, to this season of Advent 2020.

    The calendar arrangement this year already has us scurrying from the start. Thanksgiving leftovers are still in the fridge and today we set our hearts toward the manger.  As crazy at it seems, typing those last few words welcomes my heart to settledness and hope.

    One of my favorite authors, Walter Wangerin Jr., in his Advent book Preparing for Jesus says:

    As a season of the Christian year, Advent is ancient. It goes back at least to the middle of the sixth century. Already then its observance defined not only the One who was coming, but also those who were faithfully and self-conscious waiting. It defined the peculiar people who looked forward to the coming of that One.

    I love that! How can we intentionally set our hearts toward being the peculiar people who look forward to the coming of Jesus?

    We become those people who look forward to the coming of Jesus when we are remembering people.  We read the stories again and imagine what it was like for those who waited with expectation for their promised Messiah. We watch  the miracle unfold as God became flesh, and we learn how to wait with hope and longing for Jesus to come again. As we return our thoughts to the prophets who foretold his birth, the faith of Mary and Joseph and the stories that gave them hope, the shepherds, the wisemen, the star, and the manger, may our hearts be calmed and our affections stirred toward Jesus.

    Have you had a chance to read or listen to A Manger in the Middle of a Family Reunion (Week One, Day One from Wrapped in Grace) yet this year?

    How will you carve out time to remember the miracle this season?

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    Getting to Bethlehem: The birth plan and how God worked out the details

    On the video blog this week, I am reading one of my all time favorite daydreams (Week 4 Day 1).  What if Mary and Joseph knew that their baby was supposed to be born in Bethlehem?  Did they talk about this prophesied birthplace for the Messiah?  Did they think they should make preparations to go there?   I hope that you can take some time to listen in to how God worked out every single detail of their birth plan.

    Christmas is just around the corner. Let’s keep making room to remember Jesus together …

    Do you still have wrapping to do? I do.  As we  wrap gifts, let’s remember that God wrapped his birth announcement in grace — that he came because he loved us first. And let’s not forget the strips of swaddling cloths used to wrap the newborn babe, Immanuel.  May they remind us that God became flesh.

    As we prepare for company, let’s choose to keep in mind that God came to earth on a night when there were not enough beds for everyone.  His flexible mom made do with a manger.  He does not require perfect accommodations to make himself at home in our lives.

    As music fills our minds and homes, let’s remember the song the angels sang. and the way the first sight of baby Jesus caused the shepherds and wisemen to worship him.  May our music honor him.

    I have loved hearing from all of you about the way you have gathered with your friends and families during this season to read through Wrapped in Grace.  I will be posting photos this week here and on social media of friends and groups that have set aside time to remember Jesus together.  If you would like to be included, please send a photo via the contact page!

    How are you carving out time to remember Jesus this week?

     

     

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    Connections

     One of the lovely and unexpected gifts of writing Wrapped in Grace has been getting to share this favorite season and familiar story with friends, both new and old.

    Every fall I fly from Phoenix to Grand Rapids to spend a week with my family, attend the Breathe Writers Conference, eat apples and donuts with my nieces and nephews, and to experience fall as it is supposed to be.  It is always super busy. We have a big family and we never get to do everything we would like to, but we savor the moments and fill every day to the brim.  I love that this week is scheduled into my life..

    This year, in the middle of the whirlwind, I was invited to meet and have tea with a reader who has been a source of encouragement to me since the first printing of Wrapped in Grace.  Janiece keeps buying books to give away. She writes me notes in the middle of the summer when no one is reading Christmas season books.  As we spoke in her living room and sipped our tea , she jotted notes on a little piece of paper because I believe she prays for me.  She said it was ok for me to record as she played a beautiful arrangement of “Jesus Loves Me” on the grand piano in her living room. I listen to it still, and remember that something sacred happens when God connects us to each other through his story.

    Life friendships have been rekindled around this little book; high school classmates, college friends, and my favorite Jr. High Sunday School teacher who lives in Montana.  The church where our kids grew up in Reno is inviting the whole church to read the book this December — If any of you are reading this, we miss you and love you guys!

    I will be recording a new audio bookclub for this year and am looking forward to connecting with any of you who have a few minutes to stop by the blog during the Advent Season.  I hope that you can connect with a friend or two, as we anticipate Jesus this December.

    Thank you for the gift of your friendship and for loving the Story!

     

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    Peace and Hope

    I love the lights and the music, and children dressed in bathrobes and angel wings for their Christmas pageants. In our new neighborhood, just around the corner, busloads of people come to look at an entire street decked with  lights and decorations.  The backyard of one house is set up to resemble a walk through Bethlehem on the night Jesus was born. December has been a time of joyous anticipation, but the reality for many of us, is that it has also been a season of navigating hard places.

    The eternal and true God really became flesh and blood, not for only for our celebrations, but also for our heartaches. I want to carefully enter the upcoming weekend , aware and sensitive to the tender path some of the people I love are walking.  My beautiful sister-in-law, Lisa, is celebrating Christmas for the first time without her dad.  As much as she loves the manger, the life of the baby in the manger is what gives her hope.  My sister’s dear friend Jodi, who unexpectedly lost her husband just weeks ago, is holding on to hope and taking her next breath, because the grown-up resurrected babe is the one who is her peace. For both of them, the manger is what makes heaven the reality they cling to.

    Within the past 24 hours I have joined an online prayer group, lifting up a little girl in Texas who unexpectedly fell ill just days ago.  Her name is Kennedy Grace and I know her mom and dad would love to have you join in prayer for her continued healing. Jesus came to the manger for days and moments like this.  He is the baby we celebrate, and the healer and redeemer of all that is broken.

    The front of TIME magazine on my desk holds the cover picture of a darling Syrian baby, born in a refugee camp in Greece on September 30th.  Jesus came for baby Hamida.

    This story we remember is so much more than a journey to Bethlehem. It is the story of the baby, for sure, but it is ultimately the story of a Savior.

    If for you, the next  few days are coupled with hurt or loss or struggle; when in the midst of your celebrations, you are reminded of the brokenness of our world —  may you know the peace of the grown-up resurrected babe, and may your hope be rooted in Him.

    Blessings to you all this Christmas!

     

     

  • Advent,  Uncategorized

    Prepare Him Room

    Prepare Him Room

    Hi friends! This post is part of a blog hop for Advent. At the end of my post you’ll find links to some wonderful blogger friends who want to help you prepare Him room. Take some time to read them all. You will be encouraged.

    A Manger in the Middle of a Family Reunion

    I am learning that welcoming Jesus is less about perfect preparations and more about scooching over. My sister Karen and I start talking sometime in September about simple Christmas recipes and scheduling well for the upcoming holidays. We long to stay focused on what really matters, but even the best-laid plans sometimes get interrupted with life.

    One of the realities that gives us hope is the way God chose to intermingle his divine, holy story right into the everyday stories of ordinary people. If you had happened to be one of the families still living in your hometown of Bethlehem during the Roman Empire, the unexpected news of a census could only have meant one thing.

    Company.

    In those days just before Jesus was born everyone was coming home for Christmas (even though it wasn’t called that yet). Aunts and uncles and cousins would need a place to sleep and food to eat. In the Middle Eastern tradition of the day they would all be welcome to stay at your house.

    So when Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, family homes were already bulging. Kids were sleeping on the floor. Food was being eaten as quickly as it was being prepared. Familiar tradition tells us that Mary and Joseph sought lodging at an inn, but an innkeeper turned them away and they found refuge instead, inside of an animal shelter. Others believe that the manger-turned-cradle was found in a simple Bethlehem home—a feeding trough built into the wall or floor to feed animals brought in at night.A Manger in the Middle of a Family Reunion

    Kenneth Bailey, in his book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, builds a convincing case that the “inn” in Luke’s narrative of Jesus’ birth, is better translated as “guest room.” The well-read NIV translation actually says, “She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no guest room available for them”(Luke 2:7).

     It is possible that Mary and Joseph were received into the home of a relative, whose guest room was full, but who carved out space anyway for this couple from Nazareth about to have a baby.
    Regardless of where Jesus’ birth took place, Mary didn’t miss the miracle. There may have been commotion outside on the streets of Bethlehem and family reunions going on all around, but in that sacred space where she wrapped her newborn baby in strips of cloths and kissed his cheeks while he slept, the chaos around her faded. Her focus was on Jesus.img_3297

    What you think really matters tends to stop mattering when it comes time for a baby to be born. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that a whole list of things absolutely has to be done before the baby gets here, and then the baby arrives and you realize those things didn’t matter as much as you’d thought they did. We all have expectations and plans around Christmas time, but we have to keep reminding ourselves that our plans aren’t more important than the baby.

    God could have delayed the census. He could have told Mary and Joseph to head to Bethlehem in a dream, so that there would have been plenty of room in the inn or the guest room of a relative’s house.

    But God doesn’t need perfect organization to enter our world. He chooses to be present right in the middle of the messy and overwhelming pages of our lives.

    Let’s step away from our to-do lists and linger for a while at the manger during this Advent season. Yes, the little town of Bethlehem was busy and loud, but for those who took the time to notice, the birth of Jesus was a miracle.

    Heavenly Father,

    Thank you for choosing to come to Bethlehem on a night when there were not enough beds for everyone. It is so good for us to know that perfect accommodations didn’t matter nearly as much as scooching over so that there would be a place for you and your mom and stepdad.

    We want to scooch over. We want to make time this season to sit at the manger. When our lives get loud and our lists get long, tug at our hearts and remind us again that you are right here in the middle of real life. Thank you for this season of remembering your birth. May we be among the people who don’t miss the miracle.

    In Jesus’ Name,

    Amen.

    Condensed from Wrapped in Grace, The Birth Story That Changes Everything, by Deana Lynn Rogers

    Be sure to read all these blogs that are part of the Prepare Him Room blog hop.

    Lessons from Jonah on Advent – by Faith For Her

    Advent Week of Hope: A man, a fish and God’s grace are more applicable to your life than you may think (and very telling of God’s character).

    Prepare Him Room – By Going The Distance

    Read about the love language of Advent season.

    Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room – by Living for God

    Pause, Reflect, Enjoy, Praise, Accept, Rejoice, Exclaim

    Prepare Him Room – by Revelations of a Southern Girl

    Revelations about celebrating the season with an illness.

    This post is part of the Prepare Him Room Blog Hop as part of the Woven Vow Blogger Group on Facebook. Join us for blog talk and faith filled encouragement.

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    Advent Begins Today

    lets-not-let-the-season-trump-the-storyThis is the kind of year I dream about.  The very earliest date to begin the season of  Advent is November 27th, and 2016 is a November 27th year.  It won’t happen again until 2022,  We have four whole weeks to anticipate the coming of Jesus.  Four weeks to prepare and ponder the miracle of the manger.

    Let’s connect here often  during these next weeks,  and may this be our prayer:

    Let’s not let the season trump the Story.

    Let’s anticipate Jesus together.

    Let us allow the whisper of his name to cause us to breathe more deeply,

    to encounter again the absolute wonder of the story —

    That God became flesh.

    That the One who thought it all up and put it all together chose to put on newborn baby skin

    and suckle at the breast of a teenage girl whose faith to say YES

    won over the fear that could have made her say no.

    I am looking forward to celebrating  the season with you!

    If you would like to listen to the reading from Week One, Day One that was recorded last year, click here.

    If you don’t have a copy of Wrapped in Grace yet, check out the preview on the link above, or follow the links over on the right side of this post or follow the link above  to order your ebook or soft cover book for journaling.  I would love to have you join us here.

    This evening a group of friends and I are gathering for cookies and tea, and to pray together as we begin this Advent season.  Let’s not let the tinsel and wrappings of the season become more important than the story of love and grace that Bethlehem is really all about.

    How will you care out time to ponder the miracle this season?

     

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    Uncle Bill

    May I introduce you to my dear Uncle Bill? He is a  painter, potter, and lover of God’s good story.  He has gifted his corner of Cleveland and the life of our family with beautiful pieces of art and the faithful prayers of one who lives and walks with Jesus.

    fullsizeoutput_b8f4We talk a few times a month, and sometime in October he said, “Send me ten Wrapped in Grace books.  I’d like to give them away to my friends as gifts for Advent.”  Like I said … dear Uncle Bill.  Just last Saturday he left me a message that he had received the books and already has six people in mind to give them to, and was sure that he’d find four others without a problem.  And then he said, “My gosh, we are all so wrapped in grace by our merciful Father.”  I  wish you could hear the way he says it.

    I remember hearing him sing “ I love to tell the Story of Jesus and his love…” when I was a little girl,”  and for my whole life he has been telling the old old story and loving every detail of it.

     It has become his story.

    He is reopening his notes from 30 years of teaching Sunday School to lead a Bible study at his retirement center.

    And so, in honor of Uncle Bill and the story he loves to tell, there is a new coupon code for Wrapped in Grace: The Birth Story That Changes Everything.

    For $2 off on every book you order, just enter the coupon code: uncle bill.

    The first day of Advent is November 27th, so Thanksgiving is the ideal time to give your friends and family a copy of this Advent devotional and journal.   I would love to get your copies in the mail as soon as possible!

    As always, if you are ordering 10 or more books, enter the coupon code: bookclub and get the books for $10 each.

    Love you, Uncle Bill!

     

     

     

     

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    New Books are here!

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    I know, I know – it isn’t even Halloween yet, and I am thinking about Christmas. True confession — I think about Christmas a lot. Partly because I love  everything about Christmas,  and partly because writing and editing a book so that you can have it before the season is in full swing, means I get to think about Christmas in July. (Which is really just a good excuse for me to do something I love.)

    One of my favorite things about the Christmas story is how God used ordinary people who were willing to say YES to him, to tell his story.  Mary was a teenage girl planning her wedding when God asked her to be his birth mom.  What was it that fostered her faith and gave her the courage to say YES to him?

    And why did God choose to be born in a town where there weren’t enough beds for everyone? Any other weekend might have been a little less crowded, but he chose to come into the chaos.  I think he still does.

    Wrapped in Grace is designed to be read during the Advent season — the four weeks leading up to Christmas.  On the first day of each week there is a longer retelling of part of the Christmas story, or sometimes, the backstory.  During the rest of the week, there are shorter readings, prayers, carols, and spaces to journal.  Use this book in whatever way fits your schedule during the season, alone with a cup of tea, together with your friends, or around the table with your family.

    Advent begins on Sunday, November 27th.  Books are ready for shipping and will be mailed within 24 hours of receiving your order.

    If you are ordering for your church or large group, please contact me for group pricing.

    Thanks so much for sharing the season with me!  Subscribe to be notified of new blog posts via email if you’d like, and feel free to follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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    Home for Christmas

    For most of my adult life, I have have lived many states away from my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. More often than not, it has not been feasible to make the trek home for Christmas to an unpredictably snowy state, thousands of miles away from where we live, with five kids in tow. The last time we did it (in 2002) we got stranded overnight on Christmas Eve about six hours from the first family stop, because of snowy and icy roads. Truthfully, it made for a fun family memory. We eventually saw all of the grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and had a blast.

    Over the years though, home for Christmas has come to mean something other than a cross-country trip to a childhood home where stockings have been hung on the same mantle for as long as I can remember. Other families live in the homes of my childhood. My family is spread across the country. Our adult children live in different states and it is rare that we are all in the same place at the same time. And although we LOVE being together and make every effort to stay connected and see each other and celebrate long-distance, gathering together on December 25th under the same roof is rarely a possibility.

    Places come and go. People move and get married and divorced and remarried. Kids grow up and have new families to build relationships and traditions with. But the manger — well, that has been a constant in every Christmas that I can remember. Always there has been Mary and Joseph and Jesus in our Christmas celebrations. So in a very real sense, getting to the manger each December, truly feels like I have arrived at home for Christmas. Every year I read the stories and sing the carols and listen to the sermons, and sometime around this last week of Advent, in my heart and mind, I get close to the manger and it feels like home.

    What was it like for Mary and Joseph to get to Bethlehem that first Christmas? We tend to think that it was a chaotic, spur of the moment, unexpected trip for them. But what if it wasn’t? I wonder if they knew the prophecies that said the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem? What if they were waiting  to see how God would move them there?

    Click here to listen to Week Four, Day One of Wrapped in Grace: Getting to Bethlehem.

     

     

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    The Sound of His Name

    Settling on the perfect baby name may take all nine months. We make lists. We think about how a name will fit within our families. We want it to sound right; we want it to mean something.

     

    For Mary and Joseph, naming the baby was a whole other story. Jesus.  A name chosen by God and made known to them through an angel.

    Go to the Advent Video page or click here to listen to Day One, Week Three: He Will Save His People from their Sins.

     

    Dear Jesus, I love your name because: