It Begins with Him

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.
Luke 2:15-20

It’s been a quiet month on Heights of Love. While we are living this transitional chapter, a tale of two cities if you will, I have been seeking stillness in the chaos. My heart has been receiving a lot in this time and I look forward to sharing it with you in the weeks to come.

I was planning to write a post about the song Let There Be Peace on Earth. Tyler and I went to see the Boston Holiday Pops last weekend and at the very end of the concert, the Pops led a sing-a-long of this song in honor of Newtown.

I was struck by the phrase “let it begin with us” and thought I would write about how there is something each of us can do every day to contribute to peace.

I still believe that we play an integral part in making peace come alive but on this Christmas morning, I am reminded that it does not begin with us.

It begins with Him.

He came as an innocent babe, born into a modest setting and suffered a tragic death. Why?

For us.

So that we could have peace…

So that we could receive grace…

So that we could know His true love – a love that will never fade or grow distant.

Just as Mary treasured the miracle of her son, a life-giving prophesy fulfilled, I pray that we, too, would remember the miracle of this day and the hope that it symbolizes.

Wishing you and your loved ones a very merry Christmas and new beginnings in 2013.

Blessings and peace to you this Christmas morning :)

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The Light Shines in the Darkness

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it John 1:5

light

The darkness will never overcome the light.

Prayers for mercy, grace, and supernatural comfort for all affected by the tragedy in Newtown, CT. May the light of Christ and the promise of new life be a beacon of hope during this season now pierced by heartbreak.

 

Renew Our Spirit of Freedom

Restore us, Lord God Almighty;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved.
Psalm 80:19

I’m thankful to live in a country where I can wake up the morning after a hotly contested election and go about my day in peace and security.

After months of bitter campaign ads and tense debate, I’m in awe of the quietness of this morning.

Whether we are in joy or in sorrow over the results of the election, we still live in freedom.

What an incredible gift.

I think we can all agree, regardless of who we voted for, that there is work to be done in this nation. Let’s not stand in each other’s way with stubborn hearts and lazy conviction.

I pray that we would all be renewed in the spirit of love and community that Christ modeled for us in the Gospel. I pray that we would recognize His spirit in us today and that we would have the courage and boldness to act out of it.

We may not be a perfect country, but our freedom is something others pray for everyday. Let’s not waste it.

Confidence in the Most High

May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples with equity
and guide the nations of the earth.
Psalm 67:4

I’m thankful that no matter the outcome of the election tonight, the true ruler will still reign. His ways are higher than our ways and we may never understand why certain “kings” are chosen. Or not chosen.

I’m confident in God’s sovereign authority and count His grace as the highest freedom of all.

Don’t let this election confuse your allegiance to the Most High. Praise God whether your candidate wins or loses. Join your brothers and sisters in Christ to sing for joy that though we still have work to do on this Earth, the battle has already been won.

Tonight’s outcome does not determine our salvation (phew!).

If you’re feeling animosity toward people who feel differently than you (especially in the church) or frustrated with the division this election has caused, please check this out:

http://electiondaycommunion.org/

And don’t forget to vote!!

A House Divided

Back in 2008, Tyler and I started dating at the height of election season. We were planning to vote for two different candidates and spent many hours debating the issues. We enjoyed being able to discuss our viewpoints, respecting that the other person came from a unique set of experiences and opinions. We argued and disagreed but still managed to fall in love.

Can you imagine falling in love with someone you didn’t agree with politically during this election season?

It seems so full of hate. So divisive. I feel myself pulling away from the internet and television because every where I turn, there is ignorance and hate.  Sunday morning, Tyler turned on Meet the Press and I actually found myself covering my ears. I didn’t even want to hear their voices. I’m so tired of the empty statements, the egos and the hate.

It must be really confusing as a non-Christian to understand where we stand with politics. There are people shouting that the GOP is “God’s Only Party” and then others declaring that Jesus is a liberal and an equal amount of hateful, decidedly “non-Christ-like” behavior on both sides. I know conservative Christians and liberal Christians and am inclined to think that Christ would not identify as a Republican or a Democrat. After all, He was pretty harsh on the political factions of his time, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. 

I don’t identify with a political party so I am registered as an independent. When an old friend of my dad’s asked me if I was a Republican or a Democrat and I told him I was an independent, he said “Oh, so you just can’t make up your mind.”

Not exactly. I just don’t identify enough with either party. I have voted both Republican and Democrat in my short lifetime and would consider myself politically moderate. I love what this evangelical pastor has to say about why he is a registered independent, particularly the following statement:

I’m all for political activism among Christians as long as we keep it in perspective in light of our higher priorities of clarity, unity, and purity. While the occupant of the White House will make some very important decisions in the next four years that will impact our lives and futures, he won’t command our destiny.

We should pray for our next president and vote according to our conscience. But we must give our full allegiance and highest energies to our King Jesus. And he said once, “My kingdom is not of this world.” For me, being a registered independent voter helps me remember this.

My point in this post is not to tell you to register as an independent. I know there are people who are very clear on what they believe and have chosen to identify with a party that represents those beliefs.

I just feel it’s important to state that a Christian is a follower of Christ, and not a conservative or a liberal. Our political affiliation is not part of our identity in Christ:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:25-27

Jesus didn’t say this at a campaign rally. He didn’t tell the apostles to run for public office. He didn’t advocate for a candidate who He felt embodied the gospel. In fact, Jesus didn’t get involved in politics at all. He got involved in people.

I’m praying this election season that we would remember what it means to be a Christian and not let our political differences divide us. When divided, we leave room for the enemy by perpetuating hateful stereotypes and losing sight of our unified vision in Christ. “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Mark 3:25).

Even more importantly, let’s not create stumbling blocks for others to get to know Jesus by dragging His name through vitriolic politics. After all, it’s through relationships that people come to know Jesus – not legislation.

The Most Important Armor

I have struggled this past week to put into words how I’ve felt since news broke of the tragedy in Aurora. I had a blog post in the makings last week about how to show mercy toward those who offend or violate us directly (sparked by my iPhone getting stolen – which now seems so irrelevant) and while a lot could be written about mercy in this situation, I don’t feel equipped to go there today.

I was so strongly reminded in prayer this week that we are living amidst a battle between good and evil. We spend most days unaware of the war waging around us. Then evil wins a round and the tragedy jolts us (momentarily) out of our ignorance.

There’s been a lot of discussion about gun control and the right to bear arms following the Aurora tragedy. People store up weapons with the idea that someday we might have to rise up and defend ourselves against a corrupt government. But what about the corruption that wages on today? What are we arming ourselves with to fight against the kind of evil, hate, isolation and anger that lead to murder and destruction?

I’m not interested in having a conversation about gun control. Handguns, assault rifles, rounds of ammo… that weaponry will not help us sort out the tragedy and suffering we see in the headlines, our communities and our own families. How do we find healing and restoration in the midst of evil?

God asks us to put on a different kind of armor:

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”  Ephesians 6:13-18

What would our world look like if we put this armor on every day? What if, instead of putting on masks to hide our insecurities and false selves, we deliberately armed ourselves with truth? Peace? Prayer? What if we stood confidently in the armor of God, prepared to fight for good?

Out of tragedies like Aurora, stories of community, resilience, healing, mercy and even miracles emerge. Every day, people choose peace over war and prayer over denigration. It’s not easy, this is not heaven. We must recognize this reality. Evil pervades.

But it does not prevail.

To believe in Christ is to know that good ultimately wins. So let’s put down our weapons and put on the armor that matters.

“Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:55-58