Miracles, Miracles

I spent the last day of 2020 with eighteen mannequins and a very small man. Staring across the sea of mannequin torsos, towards the gaping exit door of our brick suite where shadows exited but never entered, I noted that my ending up in this room was nothing less than a miracle. If you knew Old Me, you understand what I mean.

Old Me was held under lock and key by some wicked crooks, but I didn’t know it at the time. My heart was alive and hope-filled, but it could only escape the imprisonment of my unseen taskmasters on rare occasions. These unseen taskmasters threatened me–they said that if I did not avoid embarrassment, physical danger, emotional risk, solo adventures and unpredictable situations, there would be hell to pay. If I entered any of these situations, as my heart always begged me to do, my taskmasters screamed lies into my mind. I had no tools to shut them up. Sometimes I could push aside the lies enough to accomplish what my heart wanted to. But usually, I took hold of one of the lies my taskmaster was shouting, and used that lie against my own heart. I trampled my own heart into the ditch, for years, until Jesus set me free.

But on that last day of 2020, my heart no longer lived in the ditch. It was very active, following yet another thrilling yet illogical marching order from heaven that I’d received hardly twenty-four hours earlier: “Go to the life support class on a back alley, on the east side of town.”

I’d never been to this back alley, so I called for directions. “Park in the only lot you’ll find on ______ Street. There are many entrances to the building, but use the first one you see.”

Parking in said lot, I noticed two things: an iced tea cut-out, far larger than life, and a handful of families sailing forth from the building with white plastic store bags. I ducked my head into every corner of the dingy discount store, but gained nothing but suspicious stares. From behind tall barricades, a clerk helped me. “The office you want is on the next level, off the sidewalk.”

I walked the empty sidewalk, saw an entrance with the business logo I was looking for, and tried it. Locked. The next entrance advertised many businesses, and was wide open. There was not a soul to be heard, and only the hall lights were lit, but I was determined to find my class. Like a rat in a maze, I zig-zagged from the B Suites hall, to the C Suites hall, to the D Suites hall. Logically, G Suites, the ones I needed, would be next, but I had come to the final blank wall. End of maze, no prize.

Weaving back to the start of the soundless maze, I called again for directions. That other door on the sidewalk was now unlocked, and I entered, five minutes late. “Are you expecting a large class today?” I asked the small, fidgety instructor. My eyes were scanning the eighteen mannequins–nine limbless torsos and nine naked infants–which were spaced around a blue conference table. “Three total, but you’re the only one who has found me,” he replied, with a bit of agitation. “Well, let’s begin!”

And so, for two hours, I received one-on-one emergency medical instruction. Just the class I needed, just for me, and the determination not to miss it. These gifts are a miracle, and miracles are what you live out when your heart is set free by the great I Am!

2020 was far from what I anticipated, but let’s talk about some more of the miracles it held, and save the losses for another time! Remember, miracles are your destiny when your life has been set free!

Four weeks of blooms in a barren land—-not by might, not by power, but by the Spirit of the Living God, who said to a penniless wilderness girl, “Go for it, you will thrive! Go for it! Go for it! Go for it!” When your heart can accept a reckless word like this and act on it, you know your life has been set free! Four weeks of desert moons, exquisite people and undeserved favor. Miraculous!

“Jesus, you are the protector.” This is easier to pray over myself, by far. There are few news stories headlining crimes against giraffe-scale thirty-somethings, but there are plenty of headlines featuring crimes against small, beautiful minors. Reality check: control kills beauty. Fear breeds control, and both fear and control are ruthless killers. “Jesus, you are the protector,” over and over again, and then the wilderness adventures could begin. Joy is a free side-dish when Jesus is in control. Miraculous joy!

Miraculous is the only way to describe how I experienced covid. I collapsed onto a pristine, private lake beach, hand-picked by Jesus himself, and there I stayed, weaker than I’ve been in a long time. The germs baked out of me through the rays of an unconcerned sun, and lake waves gently lapped away the heat. Pine wind sang life in the morning and driftwood fires sparked life at night. Strength to row back home across the waves was my recovery test. Fear always speaks lies, you know. Fear never warned me that being sick could also be beautiful, and infused with outrageous love—-that’s the kind of reality only irrational heaven-truth would speak.

Miraculous is the only way to explain how Jesus taught me how to share grace this year. Stemming grapes and making peanut butter sandwiches, I saw the dark places in my own heart, through the eyes of my new friends. I saw the dark places in my own heart as I juggled boxes of my possessions, one move after another. I learned, from my 62-hours of listening to Anna Karenina while disinfecting door handles, that people display negative responses towards people when they are dissatisfied with themselves. So then I was able to begin observing how I respond to people when I am dissatisfied with myself. I learned how to forgive in new ways–both myself, and others. The thing about living in the miraculous heritage you belong to, is that your school of choice is always inside of you. You’ll never be transferred to Zoom when the Holy Spirit is your professor! A year of miraculous heart-learning. What a gift!

And time fails to tell of all my beautiful new friends, or of all the new learning, or the stunning wilderness adventures, or the mind-blowing victories in unseen places, or of how I became Gretchen Winklefartz for a short and spicy season.

Truth be told, friends, no matter what comes in this visible world, you can always expect adventurous and joy-filled miracles to surround the King’s family. People can steal and damage everything in this visible world, but they can’t steal what is unseen!

6 Ways To Love Your Single Friends

In a crowded, dusty campsite overlooking the Red Sea, behind a juice-bottling plant while drinking Israeli tea, at the donations dock of an inner-city mission, on a car ride through Manhattan traffic, by a crackling campfire, during a rushed 20-minute lunch break at the flat I share with three others, in a Sheetz parking lot and amidst a massive 2 a.m. factory production of Sherri’s Berries… these are just a few of the places this year where I’ve been given the gift of hearing single people speak of what they want out of life. Do you know what? The many beautiful, gifted, world-changing men and women I listened to have all, at the end of the day, wanted the same things!

So, in case anyone out there wants fresh ideas of how to sprinkle love over their single friends during this fast-paced rodeo we call life, here are a few ways to start.

Share your wisdom and insight. This year, I heard so many of my friends say, “I just wish someone could help me figure this out.” I’ve had that thought many times myself! The reality for a free-ranger is that it is no one’s job to help them make life decisions. Their ethical and personal decisions effect primarily themselves. This is both freeing and terrifying! Although collaborative decision-making is full of challenges, so is solitary decision-making. You can love your single friends by taking the time to involve yourself in their decision-making process, especially when it regards a topic with which you’ve had experience. Don’t shy away from pointing out dangers you see in a friend’s path.

Touch them. All human beings need healthy physical touch, even if it is not their primary love language. Especially for people who live alone and don’t have pets, healthy physical touch may be hard to come by. Ask your friend if they want a hug. Put your arm around them. Even if you’re not in a place to personally offer the gift of touch, you can plop your squishy kiddo in their lap, or ask them to pet-sit your dog.

Pray for them in person. I hear this desire over and over. Everyone wants to know they are not fighting alone. Especially if you are an elder, your voice of authority is so powerful in speaking a prayer over your younger friends. It’s also powerful to speak a prayer over your friend through a voice message, a text or a card.

Encourage your friends in their calling. Speak life into the vison that your single friends have. Don’t relent in your support of their talents and dreams. People who battle alone crave other voices to remind them that their goals are accessible and that their vision is not crazy!

Help them build a family. Please, I beg of you, please know this does not mean setting your single friends up with Great-Aunt Thelhaminda. No matter how great she is. You can love your single friends by noting that their version of family may look different than your version of family. Take time to understand what family means to them. If family means close friends, encourage them to prioritize time to build the relationships they value. If family means an empowering work team, don’t let them get away with floundering in an unhealthy work environment. If family means getting involved in a church, offer your insight into what opportunities fit the goals of your friend.

Cheer for and admire them. Let your friends know they are seen and celebrated. Admire their wins. Cheer for their milestones. Compliment them. Laugh with them. Even if you can’t talk, send a smile or a wave across the room.

What have you learned about loving your single friends? Leave a comment below!


Want more stories? Consider supporting me on Patreon! By joining a team on this goal-achievement platform, you help me prioritize story-telling and you gain access to exclusive content. Members of the Celebrate the Miracles team get access to mini miracle stories posted every Monday, plus sporadically posted wilderness trip footage, gear reviews and peeks into my sketchbook! If you want to check it out, just visit https://www.patreon.com/hypernike.

When God Spoke He Stirred Up A Storm

One of the most challenging questions my wilderness students ask me is, “Do you expect more rain today?”

I look up at the clouds, at the leaves, at the surface of the water, at the birds…

I make observations, but in the end I always say the same thing:

“We’ll need strong wind in order for the weather to change.”

But maybe the strong wind just does not blow.

Maybe the weather stays the same and stays the same and stays the same, like those three weeks of continuous rain in the southern Appalachians. Grey sky, and mud, and soggy, stinky socks, and your friends giving up on their dreams because they’d slipped on a wet lichen-covered rock and sprained something, or because the mental challenge of endless struggle was just too hard.

Day after day, you hope, and wonder, “When will the sun ever shine again?

Maybe the wind does blow.

Maybe the wind begins to howl so strongly that it snaps the island palm trees right in half, zaps a northern town into a deep freeze or makes it impossible to paddle your canoe across the lake.

This visible world is jam-packed with examples meant to teach us about the unseen world, you know.

Here is what my limited observations of meteorology have taught me about the Kingdom: When the winds of change from an invisible Kingdom meet the stationary waters and forests of the visible world, there is bound to be a violent change of weather! Something new is on its way!

Some of us set sail upon the sea to faraway ports,
transporting our goods from ship to shore.
We were witnesses of God’s power out in the ocean deep;
we saw breathtaking wonders upon the high seas!
When God spoke he stirred up a storm,
lifting high the waves with hurricane winds.

Ships were tossed by swelling sea, rising to the sky,
then dropping down to the depths,
reeling like drunkards, spinning like tops,
everyone at their wits’ end until even sailors despaired of life,
cringing in terror.
Then we cried out, “Lord, help us! Rescue us!” And he did!
God stilled the storm, calmed the waves,
and he hushed the hurricane winds to only a whisper.
We were so relieved, so glad as he guided us
safely to harbor in a quiet haven.

Psalm 107, TPT

Hey Captain, you remember, don’t you, that your Creator SPOKE all of creation into existence.

Stop for a minute and think of all the times he spoke, right on down through history. Think of what happened when he spoke!

Nations rose or fell.

Living people were killed; dead people were raised to life!

Proud rulers were brought low; clueless leaders were given power!

When he spoke, people wanted to kill him.

When he spoke, everything that had been know became history, and a new reality began for anyone who would choose to see it and believe it!

Brave Captain, is your cargo ship engulfed in a churning storm? Let’s celebrate! You can be sure that if there is a storm, God is speaking.

God is speaking. His words are blowing in a change of weather. His words are colliding with the current weather in your visible world–Yes, the coming change holds rich treasure for you! I know you can feel that!

And you know, don’t you, that in the unseen world, your voyage is guaranteed to end with a safe, perfectly orchestrated landing on the shore you always have been steering towards.


Want more stories? Consider supporting me on Patreon! By joining a team on this goal-achievement platform, you help me prioritize story-telling and you gain access to exclusive content. Members of the Celebrate the Miracles team get access to mini miracle stories posted every Monday, plus sporadically posted wilderness trip footage, gear reviews and peeks into my sketchbook! If you want to check it out, just visit https://www.patreon.com/hypernike.

A Suspicious Red-Tailed Hawk

The first golden sunrays had just stretched their fingers over the mountains and begun to play with the leaves of the wild cherry tree above me, when, from the low, delicate branches of that tree, a raucous cry startled me out of my stupor.

It was the aggressive screech of a wild red-tailed hawk, shattering the thoughtfulness of the morning.

I did not look up. I went on weeding the day lilies in Mrs. Henderson’s garden, suddenly very thoughtful.

The screech screamed out again, a powerful blast of sound. Then it melted into a rivulet of chirps and trills. I did not look up.

Continuing to weed the day lilies and looking straight down at the black dirt, I could see in my mind’s eye the cherry tree from which the commanding screeches had cried out. No natural or respectable Pennsylvania red-tailed hawk would choose a fragile weeping cherry frond eight feet of the ground as their vantage point from which to hunt.

Shout as he would, I knew red-tailed hawks for more than their screams. And I knew mockingbirds. 

I was not interested enough in this mockingbird to give him the time of day. So I kept on weeding, and thinking.

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I was thinking that this is just how disinterested true lovers of Jesus are in the screams of their enemy, Satan. As the chief of liars, he is an expert at making sounds he has heard before. He imitates everything he has seen. He has been practicing imitation and deception for thousands of years! But at the end of the day, he is still a songbird, never a bird of prey. He can never do what Jesus does. He cannot correctly imitate Jesus because he does not have enough power. He does not have enough knowledge. He has no access to the Holy Spirit of truth!

He can sound like a red-tailed hawk, but he does not know how to THINK LIKE A RED-TAILED HAWK. He does not have the heart, authority, courage or the power of a red-tailed hawk.

Today, warrior, gather up those billowing skirts of yours, tuck them between your legs and into your belt, and cinch that Belt of Truth just as tight as it will go! This sounds so vigorous, but do you know how it is actually done?

Your belt of truth is put on when you spend time in the Father’s presence! Spend time building relationship with the King of Kings, asking questions, obeying answers. Spend time recieving and then being taught by the Holy Spirit, who was specifically sent to you to teach you and guide you into all truth. Spend time filling your mind with the thousands of words of truth which are already written down and are available to you at any minute of the day!

When your mind is full of truth, you will not even glance up at mockingbirds.

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Want more stories? Consider supporting me on Patreon! By joining a team on this goal-achievement platform, you help me prioritize story-telling and you gain access to exclusive content. Members of the Celebrate the Miracles team get access to mini miracle stories posted every Monday, plus sporadically posted wilderness trip footage, gear reviews and peeks into my sketchbook! If you want to check it out, just visit https://www.patreon.com/hypernike.

Steps

Far below me on the canyon floor–well, more specifically, one of the many levels of the canyon floor–a round, muddy, teal-blue pool caught the five tiny rays that reached down to it, winking and twinkling them back to the sun on its barely-stirred ripples. Ivory walls rose straight up from this pool, circling up and up with tiny ridges as though bored out by a giant drill bit.

If I had dared to look behind me I would have seen a gap in this pale, circular, bored-out wall–a fluid, graceful crack that extended down and down and around until it was a pencil line indicating the canyon’s mouth.

I kept my eyes locked straight ahead.

My knuckles rose white from the brown, wrinkled skin that clothed them, eight bumps all in a row, like tiny snow-covered peaks against a rough brown desert. I clung with both hands to the cable ladder. “Yes, Jesus. I trust you to protect me,” I whispered, then heaved myself and my wobbling pack up another rung.

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The cable trembled. Water dripped from my clothes, making the metal rungs slippery. Now and again a blast of wind shivered down the canyon, making the hairs raise on my arms. I dislodged a small rock and it scudded straight down to the rock ledge forty feet below me, then down farther still to plunk into the deep teal pool.

Inside my mind, a steady voice cheered me on–was it mine, or the Holy Spirit’s, or both?

Big breath. Another step. Keep your heart strong.

Don’t allow yourself to think about falling.

Focus on what is true. Place your foot. Move your hands. Up you go-one step closer to the sky!

See, he has provided firm footing for you.

Yes, he will provide a firm place for your feet again.

Take another step.

It was scary, but again, your feet are firmly planted. Just like he promised!

One step at a time. It’s a little easier now. You can feel the wind growing stronger. You are almost on the next level of the canyon!

At last, I muscled my pack and body over the top of the ladder and stood upright on the solid ground. I gasped, stretched my twitching leg muscles, then laughed! We did it!

From this small ledge of rock, I now gazed down the canyon, far along the fluid, graceful crack that extended down and down and around until it was a pencil line indicating the canyon’s mouth. What a great view!

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“You and I, Jesus. We have climbed all this! Time for a celebration!”

Facing north again, I see my next adventure, a narrow ledge jutting out from the cliff, offering just inches of trail above another long, narrow pool. At the end of the ledge, the blazes stagger straight up the cliff.

Time to kick it, mountain-goat style!

One step at a time. One adventure at a time. Keep following the blazed route.

Off we went.

An important lesson that I have learned while trekking over 200 miles of the Negev Desert, is that you will always be surprised by what is around the next bend. Study the route, the map and the elevation profile as you will, you will still be surprised.

A flat, easy day of road walking may turn into twelve hours of slow mud-slogging, kicking inches of clay off your boots just to gain three more inches of clay the next minute.

A quick downhill jog may become a cautious crab-crawl down a 40% grade, as you brace your trekking poles among rolling pebbles, trying not to start a rock slide.

You may need to swim through water of unknown depths.

I’ve learned, no matter how surprising the trail is, I still prefer to follow the blazes. During over two hundred miles of adventurous travel, we saw only one injured hiker-someone who had chose their own path. “It looked like a better way, but it was treacherous. Very scary,” said the wounded one. Blood oozed from a battered knee, and caked darkly in the creases.

Do not leave the blazed route, even if you cannot see your next step.

Ask for direction, then walk. You’ll hear the same steady voice.

See, there is a foothold here.

You cannot see the metal rungs as you lower yourself straight off the lip of the crater, but, yes, good, your feet have just found them.

Yes, here is the next toehold.

Walking in heaven-destiny is very like walking an adventurous trail. It’s scary and unpredictable. Thrilling. Sometimes there is deep pain. Sometimes there is incredible joy.

Sometimes you can see the way.

Often you see only a drop-off, and an arrow pointing straight down. Will you lower yourself into the unknown, and trust?

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When you know you are where you are supposed to be, you can rest assured that right now, right this moment, there is a firm foothold for you to step on. Right now, you have what you need.

We were promised provision for now. For this step.

Right now, HE WILL PROVIDE.

Stay on the blazed route. It is narrow, and scary, but it is maintained by the Creator himself! The blazed route leads higher, to some great views!

Ask, then move.

Boldly move. One step at a time.

 

BONUS!

Here is actual footage of me tottering, praying and laughing my way along part of the trail. What could you accomplish if your greatest fear was gone? Comment below!


Want more stories? Consider supporting me on Patreon! By joining a team on this goal-achievement platform, you help me prioritize story-telling and you gain access to exclusive content. Members of the Celebrate the Miracles team get access to mini miracle stories posted every Monday, plus sporadically posted wilderness trip footage, gear reviews and peeks into my sketchbook! If you want to check it out, just visit https://www.patreon.com/hypernike.

Servants

When the forests wipe the sleep from their eyes and ever-so-slowly pull on their ethereal dressing-gowns of green, I always unbox my own earthy memories of the days I spent as a landscaper. Those were humbling days, and rich ones.

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Rich, because I could be in the dirt, and beautify the land, and feel the ever-changing winds on my face, and work hard–all things I love. Humbling, because I was unpackaged into this earth with a good bit of pride, and  pride and serving do not get along. In order to thrive as a landscaper, I learned to show up each morning and ask, “What would you like done today? And how would you like it done?” and not say a bit more than that, unless it was to say, “Got it!” or, “Could you show me how?”

Servant.

An odd name for a visionary to take on, isn’t it? For a stubborn, creative, out-of-the-box thinker? Servant.

I’ve listened to the Gospel of John four or five times over during the last month, and one thing I keep being amazed by is the way in which Jesus served his Father! The way he gave him honor!

“To do the will of the One who sent me.” “Not so that I will receive praise, but to glorify my Father.”–he said these again and again!

Wisdom choosing to walk in humility. Power choosing to walk in obedience.

What was the result of this obedience, this humble servanthood? EVEN MORE POWER. And for everyone to share… forever!

I look at my hands, and stretch them flat open, palms up. I am teaching my heart to say, “Yes, Jesus. Got it.” or, “Yes, Jesus. Could you show me how?”

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It is not my job to understand. It does not matter if I enjoy the route, or not.

Servants.… blazing a path of humble praise and joyful obedience. Giving up their own wisdom in exchange for heaven-wisdom. Giving up their power in exchange for heaven-power.

Paving the way for more glory, more revelation, more power!

“Yes, Jesus!”

 

 

The Original Plan

“I want to stick with the original plan, you know?”

Melita’s mouth was half open, but I kept talking. “The only problem is, no one told me what the original plan was in the first place.”

She laughed. “I wondered what you were going to say. Yeah. That’s true.”

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We were 9,000 kilometers from home, 10 miles from the nearest town, trudging through lime-green peach orchards on the fringes of the Judean wilderness. We’d traveled the entire length of the Negev Desert and emerged into a world full of contrasts. Placid herds of sheep grazing the rolling, rock-strewn pastures, verdant fields of green waving gently in the breeze, crimson poppies glistening under a golden sun. College students lounging in the grass 10 feet apart from each-other. Scolding voices asking, “Why aren’t you at home? Don’t you know what is going on in the world?” Red alerts on the bus schedule. Sharp cries of parents as children race out of villages to ask us, “Corona? Corona?”

Darkness had fallen long before we drug our dusty bodies onto a porch on the fringes of a small village. “Come in, come in,” Matthew and his wife invited. “What are you going to do? Fly home, or stay? Here, have a shower.” I shuffled through my drybag of clothes. Dirty, dirty, dirty. I was wearing my cleanest clothes, having expected today to be laundry day. A shower felt nice anyway. Over plates of curry and rice, Matthew’s wife was honest with us. “We had to take time and think through hosting you two. Everyone is so fearful, but that’s not the best way. The reality is so different than what people are afraid of. You’ve been in the desert, for crying out loud. That’s got to be the safest place to be.”

Muted squalls arose from the next room. “You have a baby?” Melita asked. “Yes, he is 7 months old.” The two-and-a-half-year-old ate pie with us and cried when it was time to go to bed.

10 hours later, two disheveled hikers stood on the porch once more, stuffing drybags into dirty packs at a rapid rate of speed. A little boy offered us cookies sadly, having looked forward to a day of playing with these new tall friends. A brave mother and father waved goodbye as we trotted down the drive to catch the only morning bus.

I sat alone on a garden retaining wall by the Ben Gurion train station later that day, trying to hide the 73 mosquito bites on my battered feet from curious eyes as I munched down my three cucumbers in the least barbaric way possible. As I sat, I thought of this brave mother and father.

Power, love and a sound mind. That is what they had lived out. In front of their tiny children. In front of their fear-filled village. In front of two strangers. In front of God.

Heroes don’t always know the earth-picture of their own original plan. But they always know the heaven-attributes of their own original plan.

Power has no space for fear.

Love has no space for discouragement.

A sound mind has no space for second-guessing.

Stick with the original plan, brave heart!! It’s all written out for you, but not in earth language.

 

Desert Flowers

I walk along, and cannot understand the brave desert flowers.

All alone in the wilderness of dust, rock and crumbling pebble soil, they turn their faces towards the sun. 

They follow the sun’s rays with their faces all day.

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Fragile petals of hope reaching up to a blazing orb.

Hopefully.

Trustingly.

The sun is their source of life.

Without its rays, the flowers could not live.

Yet, the sun has power to kill them.

They could fear it…

Why do they turn their faces? 

All alone in the desert heat,

have they no fear?

Don’t they know that in time-maybe today, maybe next month-the rays of the sun will dry up their last moisture- that the scorching rays of the sun will shrivel and kill them?

 

I guess

the flowers learned the lesson

taught from the beginning of time

everyone who risks enough

to receive life

to live

to lose their life

will gain it. 

And that it is far better to live and die then to never live at all.

Character

Character.

That foundational piece of you.

Yes, YOU.

Untouchable by disease. 

Unhindered by poverty.

Unmistakable when times get hard.

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It’s the man battling cancer and the man battling heart disease who invest hope into each other instead of speaking of their own pain.

It’s the mom with the uncooperative toddler in the grandchildren photoshoot–the mom who holds her child and cares for his heart instead of scolding him for ruining the picture.

It’s the girl setting healthy boundaries for herself by saying, “I am not ready to talk about that right now.”

It’s the teen who leaves a chicken-scratch thank you note for the hotel maid, and never forgets to tip.

It’s the father using words of grace.

It’s the child who chooses not to laugh at someone else’s expense.

It’s every person who chooses silence when they want to self-defend.

It’s every person who chooses to speak up when someone needs a defender.

Character. 

Invited into life by the beautiful gift of choice.

Honed and shaped by so many unpleasant things.

Struggle, pain, conflict and being wrong yet again.

But, character!

Such a treat to behold–such a honor to live out!

So beautiful in the eyes of the Father!

Character!

An unshakeable upgrade!

My son, if your heart is wise, my own heart also will be glad; and my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right.

For as [a man] thinks within himself, so he is.

Proverbs 23

 

 

 

5 Ways to Keep Holiday Gatherings Merry & Bright

1. Announce Your Hugging Game Plan
A simple fix to the awkwardness of choosing the appropriate greeting for varying levels of acquaintance is to let the other person know what you are going for. I like to ask, “Would you like a hug?” or, if I know they like hugs but don’t know if they are expecting one from me, I say, “I am so happy to see you! I need to give you a hug.”

2. Repeat the Names

I know this has been said before, but since I am personally weak in this area and need a reminder, I’ll just go ahead and say it again: People feel valued when you make an effort to remember their name. It’s true. If you want to spread holiday cheer, it is great to sing loud for all to hear, but it is also wonderful to actually try to remember the names of your co-worker’s children. You can help names stick by repeating them, asking what they mean or even writing them down.

3. Go Next-Level with Anyone
Weed out stale, cut-and-dried questions like “Where are you working right now?” and “Have you been enjoying the holidays?” If it is a question that has been overused on you, it has been overused on this person as well. Instead, use an invitational, open-ended question that you are truly interested in hearing the answer to, such as, “What’s been on your mind this week?” or “What is your favorite way to spend your time these days?”

4. Bring Your Questions and Your Best Snippets
While preparing for an event, plan how you will contribute to an entertaining conversation. Pull a few interesting snippets of your life, local news, or global discoveries to the forefront of your mind. (Avoid bringing up politics–because of acid reflux, obviously.) Choose ahead of time a few questions you want to ask folks you expect to see at this event. If there is a topic you’ve been wanting to discuss with someone who is also interested, keep that in the forefront of your brain too. Boom. You are ready.

5. Jump Aboard the Awkward Train

In the event that conversation dives so far into the awkward or absurd that no amount of civility will bring it back, you can still have a good time by going Brant Hansen and just bringing a wonderful snippet of your own to the conversation. A few starter options:

“Does it ever bother you that gingerbread people live in houses made of the flesh of their fellow men?”

“Do you ever stop and ask roadside bystanders whether they are hitch hiking, or just trying to compliment your driving?”

“What spiritual applications do you take from 1 Samuel 19,  where the Spirit of God came upon Saul, and he stripped off his clothes and prophesied before Samuel, and lay naked for a day and half?”

 

Have a very Merry Christmas!

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