Advent 2020

In a season where there isn’t really any space for daily PrayerPoints, I have to intentionally create it. And, for certain, this is the year for intentionality. I invite you to be find space for God’s Word, prayer, and reflection during Advent 2020. May our hearts be softened to the Savior; to the work He is doing in our hearts and lives.

The Essentials

I have been traveling quite a bit the last few years and I love exploring and learning about the world around me. But that also means I have to pack and unpack a lot. Unfortunately, sometimes I forget the “essentials”.

My essentials change from time to time. That seems weird to say but, depending on my hair situation, I either need mousse or gel. And, recently, I have taken to wearing a hat when I plan to shower a little later in the day. I guess you can say that some of my essentials are seasonal, at least for traveling.

But my core essentials — the things that make me me — continue to make their presence known. These are the elements of me that are difficult for me to suppress. Try as I might, they sort of erupt and are undeniable. It’s almost as if God said, “These are the foundational elements to Liz and watch me as I grow them and use them through the course of her life!”

Writing has always been, and continues to be, an important part of my life. While I still like the physical act of putting pen to paper, these days I do most of my writing on the computer. How I write as well as how consistently I write has changed and adapted with the tools available to me. I even utilize old envelopes and scribble all kinds of ideas on them! That will never change.

Listening to others is a part of my core. I even considered being a counselor at one point. Most often, people just need to know they have been heard. I have a lot to learn from others — and they don’t always share it verbally!

Encouraging others is also important me. I think providing consolation, comfort, and inspiration is sorely lacking in today’s world. The way people can talk to one another, especially when they are not face-to-face, astounds me. I make every effort to love people where the are, give them encouragement for forward progress if that is what they are looking for, and I pray for them. I can’t be the one to do what they need to do but I can pray for them as they take the next step.

Sharing my faith is one of those things that I cannot, nor do I want, to squelch. I certainly consider the receptivity of those around me and am open to where and how the conversation goes. I am called to share my faith. But this faith stuff is entirely God’s business. God’s work in my life is amazing. The details He has covered before I even knew they needed to be addressed, the opportunities He has created out of ugly situations, the gift of Jesus, the comfort and conviction of the Holy Spirit, and the forgiveness of my sins — my ugly and selfish sins. Sharing my faith is about what God has done for me but also what He has done for the sea of humanity. The sharing of my faith isn’t always through words.

What are your essentials — those core elements God has been developing in you over the course of your life?

Come, Lord Jesus!
Liz

Emmanuel

God is with us!

Recently, I was in Hungary. The focus of the trip was the Christmas Markets and we were there just as Advent was beginning. We had great traveling companions and wonderful foods. All of the photos I am using for the PrayerPoints for Advent are from this trip. Actually, the idea of what to use for the photos came from being on the trip.

Advent is a thing in Hungary.

I have never seen so many different Advent candle configurations! In the city center — 3 feet in diameter — along with a lighting ceremony for the 1st candle, in the village center made out of large painted trash cans (3 pink and 1 purple), in wineries, and in gift shops, large and small. The countdown to Christmas is on by way of the Advent wreath! And while we were there to experience the Christmas Markets and some other fun seasonal opportunities, it did not feel quite as crazy commercial to me. I was a little disappointed that there were some Black Friday specials — I wish they wouldn’t embrace that concept or McDonald’s, Burger King, or Starbucks either.

As I was traveling, it was lovely to have so many reminders that God was, indeed, with me! Of course I know it. He always is. But, it was so refreshing to see that others knew it too! Having the Advent wreaths everywhere I went was an unanticipated blessing.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV

Come, Lord Jesus!
Liz

Dwelling

I have dwelled on things I have said or done (or left undone) a time or two. These situations weigh on me and the inner dialogue might go something like this:

I cannot even believe you said that.

Why are you being so petty?

Why didn’t you pay closer attention?

That was a stupid thing to say!

I work on remaining silent when frustrated because blurting things out in a moment of aggravation typically only escalates a situation. I also mentally work through things that are mistakes I have made. I first “right” what I can and then I lift the rest to God. Some things are not in my control. No amount of money or time can resolve some situations. I have learned to be ok with that.

But this dwelling can drive me crazy! It can create sleepless nights. I might dream of all of the possible solutions that could have worked if only I would have _________________________!!! [You fill in the blank!]

What is worth dwelling over? Where should my energies go?

These days leading up to Advent have something worth dwelling over. God’s gift to humankind. God’s gift of redemption. God’s gift of love. The Prince of Peace. My Redeemer. Emmanuel.

Come, Lord Jesus!
Liz

Looking Out

Observing the world from the comfort of my own space is risk-free. I can stay within my walls.

The photo for today is from a castle I recently visited in Austria. The walls are so thick and for good reason. That is a part of what protects. The window can provide the opportunity to view what is happening, though it makes it difficult to engage.

Hurt people hurt people. And that is when walls are built and reinforced. If the wounds are never dealt with, simple barriers become a fortress. Living within a fortress doesn’t allow for much engagement with the world. It is a maze of stone cold passageways designed to protect the heart. But it also doesn’t allow a heart to grow in its capacity to love. Unfortunately, that is a form of captivity.

I am thankful that Jesus came to set the captives free. I am thankful for His healing, redemption, forgiveness and His heart-soothing love.

Come, Lord Jesus!
Liz

PrayerPoints for Advent

I love the seasons of the church year because they always give me a fresh focus for the days ahead. They can startle me awake and get my heart and mind back where they need to be.

It is so easy to be sucked into the daily grind and not take the essential time to dwell with God and soak up His presence in Scripture. when I am feeling weary it is most often because I am doing too much “doing” and not enough “being”. Join me as I explore this Advent season with some prayers and pondering beginning December 1st.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Liz

Making Room

There are times I need to create the space for something that I value. If I don’t reserve or set aside the time, other things take over and the urgent trumps the essential.

The days that are so full that I don’t have time to think are often days that drain me. I appreciate having the time to contemplate and react with intentionality. I also like to have room for the mistakes, the “this is taking longer than it should”, and the learning curves that come with software updates or system failures.

When I allow for space for the unknowns, I have the time to think through them. Some unknowns are good, some are bad, and some are neutral but they all take some space in my head, my day, and sometimes, even in my heart.

When I think about making more room in my life for prayer and studying Scripture, it seems odd to put limits on the amount of time I have to offer to this endeavor. Of course, I could exclusively study for the rest of my remaining days and it would never be enough. But I also know that my calling is not to devote every waking moment to studying God’s Word and His ways.

Thankfully He walks with me and guides me and leads me. As I give Him more room to move and work within my life, I know He is using His Word to mold and shape me.

Come, Lord Jesus!
Liz

Clutter

When preparing for guests, I would prefer to eliminate clutter but, I don’t always get around to it. Of course, guests are usually coming to see me and not my home. But I know I relax more when things are calm around me. But if we have a strong relationship, it truly doesn’t matter.

I know some people think they need to clean up their lives before they respond to Jesus. But He loves us before things are, in our limited perspective, neat and tidy. Jesus comes into the mess and the stress of our lives and loves anyway.

I hope we all have friends who can drop in without an announcement and be welcomed instead of being mortified and embarrassed that things aren’t up to perfection. Those who know me know they are going to get a little clutter, even if their visit is announced. Jesus knows it, too. He comes to redeem, restore, and renew. He sees through the clutter of our hearts and lives and shows us what is essential. He isn’t looking for perfection, He is perfection.

Come, Lord Jesus!
Liz

PrayerPoints are an opportunity for me to pause and consider where my heart is this holiday season. Thank you for reading along and thinking about it too!

Preparing

Advent is all about preparing for the Christ child.

At the moment, I am in Hungary with a Christmas Market tour group. It has been very interesting to be here at the start of Advent. The Christmas markets typically do not start until December 1st because that is the day that begins the countdown to Christmas. There are Advent wreaths all around. Many home and store windows are decorated but I have hardly seen any “Santa” things. I don’t feel quite as bombarded with the commercialization of Christmas. Some stores and towns use large windows for the Advent calendar and each day a window is opened to reveal something special. The preparation helps the anticipation of baby Jesus.

There is a lot of preparation we Americans do in anticipation of Christmas. Being involved in a retail business that does a lot of business during this season, I need to be intentional about preparing my heart, particularly when time is short and the to-do list is long. I don’t often have a rhythm or predictable schedule but I might need to start scheduling it in because I think I might enjoy something that is consistent and dependable.

It is time to take a breath and relax and remember what this time is all about. How am I preparing my heart? How am I preparing me? Am I letting God soften the callouses and refocus my distracted thoughts?

How do you prepare?

Come, Lord Jesus.
Liz

Me first….

I usually defer to others. Not because I don’t consider myself worthy of whatever it is we are deciding or doing but because I often do not really have a preference. When I do have a preference, I share it. But there are absolutely times when I need to be first:

in Confession: While I am not required to confess to others in order to be forgiven it does go a long way in relationships. It is good for me to be first to confess my wrongs. There are plenty of them, of course. But waiting for someone else to confess when I am in a conflict with them isn’t helpful. The longer I wait, the longer I am stewing and justifying my own behavior. Instead of digging my heels in and waiting, I should take the first step.

In Forgiveness: I should never hesitate extending forgiveness. It actually benefits me more than the offender. God knows the heart. And He certainly knows mine after all these years. He knows all I have been forgiven for. And while He casts my sins as far as the East is from the West, it would be good for me to remember just as a point of reference. It is a huge shame to withhold forgiveness. But when I do, the true damage is done to me and my relationship with God.

In Giving: When it comes to sharing, I can start things off: lead by example. Others may not follow along, but it should not dissuade me. Giving often does more for the giver than the receiver and the act of giving grows my heart and my compassion.

Come, Lord Jesus!
Liz

As we prepare for Jesus in these days leading up to Christmas, PrayerPoints will be published daily. To learn more about the history of Advent and history behind the advent wreath and candles, CLICK HERE!