When Our Soul Feels Its Worth

text, winter backdrop, snow covered light

And the Soul Felt Its Worth
By Hallee Bridgeman

The Christmas season has gotten so loud! Starting sometime in mid-August, the Christmas decorations in stores start coming out. The closer to Thanksgiving we get, the noisier it gets. Sales! Music! Lights! Everywhere you can turn, there is some reminder of the winter holiday filled with creepy elves and fat men in magical sleighs.

Even for those seek to center our hearts and minds on our Savior’s birth, it’s easy to get caught up in the chaos and the noise.

The hymn “O Holy Night” constantly grounds me during the Christmas season. Whenever I hear it, it gives me pause. The song’s lyrics provide me with a moment of such reverence and acknowledgement of the majesty of Christ’s birth. This event brought angels who sang “Glory to God in the Highest” into our realm (Luke 2:14 NKJV).

The first verse of this hymn gives us a glimpse into the majesty of Christ:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth

Those words pour over me and affirm all of my love and worship to our Christ.

Philippians 2:9-11 says: “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (NKJV).

The chorus of O Holy Night says:

Fall on your knees
O hear the angels’ voices

When that song washes over me, I long to be in that field with those shepherds so I can fall on my knees and, in person, worship the one who God has exalted and given the name above all names. It makes the ribbons and wreaths and trees fade and opens my heart to the truth: Without Christ, we are lost, pining, and our soul feels no worth.

Our family’s tradition is to participate in the Jesse Tree devotional. The book we use starts day 1 with Creation and goes in order throughout the Old Testament, then ends day 25 with Christ’s birth.

The original idea of the nightly advent is to place ornaments on a small tree that coincide with that night’s scripture and devotion. Because the nightly readings move through the Bible, I hang a garland on the wall and every ornament acts as a timeline representing the timeline of Christ through the Bible leading up to his birth. It’s a beautiful reminder to our children that God has always had it in His plan to provide a Savior to us.

We get to show them that Christ’s coming was foretold from the beginning of the Bible and He loves us enough to send His only Son into the world long lain in sin so that we can be redeemed.

I pray you have a chance during the hustle and bustle to savor the certainty of God’s love for you and that you’re able to grasp the magnitude of the gift He’s given us in His Son.

Do you have a favorite Christmas hymn that speaks to your soul this way? How do you center yourself during a busy holiday season?

Get to know Hallee!

With over half a million sales, Hallee Bridgeman is a best-selling Christian author who writes action-packed romantic suspense focusing on realistic characters who face real world problems. Her work has been described as everything from refreshing to heart-stopping exciting and edgy. Hallee loves coffee, campy action movies, and regular date nights with her husband. Above all else, she loves God with all of her heart, soul, mind, and strength; has been redeemed by the blood of Christ; and relies on the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide her.

Visit her online at: halleebridgeman.com

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

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When God Uses Christmas to Point us to Something Bigger

Image of woman holding cash
2002 started as a guilt-ridden Christmas but resulted in one our family will always cherish.

A month before the holidays, we feared our daughter would suffer the consequences of our bad choices. After years of careless spending, we’d depleted our savings and maxed out our credit cards. We knew we needed to make drastic changes but feared doing so would hurt our daughter.

Yet we could no longer ignore God’s prodding, not without becoming willfully disobedient. He wanted first place in our hearts Quote from postand asked us to purge those things, like materialism, that had occupied His rightful place.

And so, that November, we cut up our cards, tossed out our catalogs, and I set about making our daughter hand-made gifts.

A couple weeks later, my husband arrived home with a large, plastic garbage bag filled with stuffed animals—all with their tags still on. Through this, God provided the perfect gifts for our stuffed-animal loving daughter. But He did much more than that. He showed her that He sees her, loves her, and can provide for her through the most unexpected means.

As we sought to honor God with our spending, we experienced numerous miracles. Free plane tickets that allowed us to visit family when schedules prevented driving. Upgraded vehicle rentals when the economy car never would’ve been enough. Grocery sales when milk and veggies ran low.

For nearly a year, He helped us stretch every penny, so that we had neither too little nor too much. Here’s the interesting part—those miracles didn’t continue, at least, not to the same extent, once we had our finances managed. I’m convinced that’s because we no longer needed them. God continued to show up in our lives, but rarely in such obvious, material ways.

Honestly, I believe His purpose extended far beyond our financial blessings. With each stuffed animal and rental car upgrade, He taught us to trust in Him. He shifted our focus off our efforts and planning and onto Him, the One who held our future and our family in His hands.

God used our lack that Christmas and unexpected blessings to point us to the greatest gift of all, one that would outlast the season–Christ Himself.

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Some 3,500 years ago, God brought the Israelites on a similar journey. After centuries of oppression in a pagan land, He liberated them from slavery then led them on a forty-year trek through the wilderness. With every step, God taught this emerging nation to trust in Him for protection and provision. Their role was simple—surrender and obey. He took care of everything else.

Scripture tells us, each morning, He rained down cracker-like wafers from the sky, giving each family exactly what they needed for that day. Here’s the part I found cool: once they entered the fertile territory He’d long promised, the wafers stopped coming. Abruptly.

From that moment on, Scripture says, they ate the produce of the land. Daily, they discovered, they had more than enough. They saw, in a tangible way, God alone had the power to meet their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

Each day, through difficulties and blessings, He leads us through similar lessons. When life hits hard or provisions abound, it’s easy to focus on all the material objects that bring pleasure and security, but with every need and gift, God is pointing us to something greater—Himself.

I don’t know if God will provide for you in the same way that He did for us, but I do know He will always and only do what is for your best. We tend to focus on our immediate needs and desires, but God knows where true fulfillment and peace are found–in Him. Our relationship with Christ is a gift that will bring joy long after we’ve packed up our tinsel and decorations.

Let’s talk about this! Are finances tight this Christmas? How might focusing on God, your provider, help reduce your anxiety and give you peace? How has past difficulties increased your trust in Him? Share your thoughts and examples with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

For those who are local, fun news! Wholly Loved Ministries has announced their first live Bible study, written by myself, Susan Aken, Dena Dyer, and Cheri Cowell. Join me at Wildewood Christian Church in Papillion where I’ll be teaching live.

Location: 2081, 1255 Royal Dr, Papillion, NE 68046

Dates: Jan. 15th-March 5th (with Feb. 12th off)

Times: Tuesday evenings from 6:30pm-8pm

Can’t make it to the winter study but want to join us? No problem! I’ll be presenting the study again at an Omaha church starting in March. (Details pending.)

Becoming His Princess: A 7-week Study on the Life of Sarah

Bible study cover imageDo you ever feel insignificant or unseen? As if what you do or even who you are isn’t quite good enough? Does your confidence level vary based on who you’re around and what their bank account or how accomplishment list looks like compared to yours? If so, this study, based on the life of Sarah, a woman from the Old Testament Scriptures, is for you.

For seven weeks, we’ll follow her uncertain and at times terrifying journey from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur to the land promised to her and her husband, and ultimately, the place of rest God beckons each of us toward. He met her in the middle of her pain, shame, and all her striving and rewrote her story—through grace. A grace bigger than her greatest failures and that proved sufficient for all her insufficiencies.

As we read about her experiences, we’ll learn to center our identity in Christ, recognize His power and presence through our most challenging circumstances, find rest from our striving, and live daily in His grace.

Want our team to come to you? Contact me HERE. 

A Clear Measure of Our Trust

woman walking along beach with quote pulled from post
My trust is most revealed in how readily I respond to God’s guidance. I’m quick to talk about His power, love, and sovereignty. But too often, my daily actions demonstrate my heart hasn’t truly owned those biblical truths. When I hesitate to respond to God’s prompting or flat-out disobey, I reveal a deep layer of doubt, one that, if not swiftly squashed, will ultimately prove crippling.

One that will, ultimately, rob me of the joy-and-peace-filled life God longs to give me.

Had I been with the Israelites the day God told Joshua, their commander, to lead them across the Jordan River and into the lush and plentiful land He’d long promised them, I worry I may have politely declined. My thoughts would’ve been consumed by the rushing waters before me, my inability to swim across, and the threat of death both posed. This wasn’t how the Israelites responded.

I believe the why rests in their backstory—in the consequences they’d experienced due to disobedience. Decades prior, God had miraculously liberated their parents from slavery, led them across the Red Sea on dry ground, and commanded them to take possession of Canaan’s rich pastureland. But the people had refused, out of fear. Because of this, they were forced to wonder through the desert for forty years. With each step, they were confronted afresh with their foolishness and reminded of God’s faithfulness. As He provided for them day by day, bringing water from rocks and honey-like wafers from heaven, they learned to trust in and depend on God.

And the Israelite’s children, now adults, had witnessed it all. They’d seen the suffering that came from rebellion and the blessings that came from obedience. Therefore, when faced with their own seemingly impassable body of water, they chose the latter.

In other words, they focused on their Savior, not the challenge before them.

This enabled them to move forward—to take hold of the blessing He’d prepared for them.

Scripture tells us, once Israel’s priests took that first literal step of faith, the waters miraculously stopped. As I read this account, recorded in Joshua 3, I was struck by the order of events. The priests stepped into the raging waters first, and they didn’t just dip their toe in. According to verse eight, they stood in the river. This demonstrated total commitment to obedience and total faith in God.

The result? God came through, as He always does.quote image pulled from post

We’ll regret countless choices made over the course of our life but I guarantee responding to God in faith won’t be one of them.

Is God asking you to take a step of faith? What challenges do you need to surrender to Him? How might focusing on Jesus rather than your problems or the obstacles ahead bolster your faith? Share your thoughts, examples, and stories with us in the comments below.

Additional resources you might find helpful:

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Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving image

I’m thankful for grace. I don’t have to strive or stress or try to be enough–because Christ is enough in me.

I’m thankful God’s sovereign. No matter how crazy the world seems, He’s still in control. He still has a plan–a good and hope-filled plan, and He’s working everything out according to His perfect wisdom.

I’m thankful for God’s love. He doesn’t just love us but He is love–the perfect embodiment of that which our hearts need most.

I’m thankful for Immanuel–God with us. Jesus looked down upon this broken world, was moved to compassion, and entered into our mess in order to set us free and draw us to Himself.

I’m thankful for God’s presence. Wherever I go and whatever I face, He will be walking right beside me.

I’m thankful for God’s Holy Spirit guiding, strengthening, healing, and transforming me.

Happy thanksgiving!

When Life Hurts, You’re Not Alone

Woman staring out a window.

There is no pain quite as deep and dark as that which is experienced in isolation. You may know this first hand. Hopefully, you’ve also experienced the converse–the strength and encouragement of having someone to lean on when it felt as if your legs might soon give way. As my guest, Julie Holmquist shares today, God doesn’t want any of us to feel alone. He wants us vitally and intimately connected, in good times but especially in the hard.

You Are Not Alone

By Julie Holmquist

Having just had my twins prematurely by an emergency c-section and unable to nurse them, I felt painfully alone. With hormones raging and the chaos of being a first-time mom, I frantically tried to find someone who was farther along in this journey to help me navigate the twists and turns; however, there was no one to be found. Often I cried myself to sleep asking God to send someone who would “get me!”

No one in my family or close circle of friends ever had twins, preemies or a c-section. To top it off, it seemed like everyone else was able to nurse their babies.

There was no one to share my struggle with.

Pain Isolates Us

Pain doesn’t discriminate between gender, socioeconomic status or skin color. It doesn’t adhere to geographical borders, political ideologies, or classes of society. It’s a common thread we all share.

Why is it, then, that we so often feel isolated like no one truly knows or even cares about what we’re going through? 

What Does Scripture Say About Pain?

The Bible promises us that He works everything out for our good (Romans 8:28), in heaven there will be no more crying (Revelation 21:4) and weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

But what does the Bible say about pain when we’re in the middle of the mess?

Two women sitting together.Shared Pain is Diminished Pain.

John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept” (NIV*). It is the shortest verse of the Bible, yet those two words pack such a powerful reminder that, just as Jesus physically entered our world, He also entered our pain.

John 11 tells us the story of the death of a man named Lazarus, Jesus’ friend. When Jesus arrived, He knew He was about to unleash resurrection power and Lazarus would live again. Yet when He saw Mary and Martha grieving and weeping over the loss of their brother, He was moved to tears and wept right alongside them.

Jesus didn’t scold them saying, “Get over it! Stop crying! Don’t you know what I am about to do?” Instead, He entered their pain and wept with them. He knew death would not have the final say in Lazarus’ life at that moment. Perhaps He wept simply because His friends were weeping.

When Jesus got to the tomb, He told them to roll away the stone from the tomb’s entrance. Martha, Lazarus’ sister, warned Him that Lazarus had been dead for four days, and certainly it would stink if they did. Jesus then said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40, NIV*). They proceeded to do ask Christ had asked. Then Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father, and commanded Lazarus to come out. Still bound in his grave clothes, Lazarus exited the tomb. Jesus then instructed those who were there to take off Lazarus’ grave clothes and to let him go.

Jesus loved them enough to meet them where they were but then rewrote their story through grace.

John 15:15 tells us that Jesus calls us friends. Romans 12:15 says that we are to rejoice with those who are rejoicing and to weep with those who are weeping. If you’re going through hard times, you aren’t alone. Jesus hurts because you hurt. He’s not a passive observer sitting on the sidelines watching things happen to you. He’s a very real and active participant in your life.

So when your husband cannot understand what you are going through, your best friend is super busy, and your family doesn’t know what to say, know: You aren’t alone in your struggle! God is closer than you think and always with you. And if by chance He sends someone your way who can share in your struggle, you’ll know He sent them.

Let’s Talk About This!

There’s a difference between empathy and sympathy. Jesus doesn’t feel sorry for us, but He does feel what we feel. He empathizes with us in a friend’s text at just the right moment, a song that stirs our hearts, or a friend who’s traveled the same hard road you have. I want to encourage you in the midst of a struggle to first turn to Him because He cares for you. Second, I ask God to send some people in your path who may have experienced something similar and can speak to your pain. You are not alone.

Is there an area in your life you feel alone? Where can you see Jesus empathizing with you?

*THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Get to Know Julie

Julie Holmquist is an author who currently writes on her blog at Stuff of Heaven and is also a contributing author for Devotableapp.com. Julie has written and produced video devotionals as well. She graduated from Christ for the Nations Bible school in Dallas, TX and holds an associates degree in practical theology. She enjoys all things personality and has probably taken every personality test there is (ENTP and an Enneagram 7w8). Julie loves the body of Christ (the Church) and smiles BIG when people are passionate about walking in their God-given callings and giftings–whatever they may be.

She and her husband have four sons and recently relocated to Charlotte, NC from Colorado Springs, CO.

You can find Julie online at her blog, Stuff of Heaven, follow her on Instagram at Stuff of Heaven and at Twitter at Stuff of Heaven,and connect with her on Facebook at Stuff of Heaven (Julie Holmquist)

Additional Resources:

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The Power of Living, Daily, in Grace

text pulled from quote and image of a woman gazing across the water.

Sometimes I want to tack sticky notes to my forehead declaring: I acted like a jerk today. Or, I chose fear instead of faith, or selfishness when God called me to give. Not because I enjoy self-degradation but because I encounter too many Christians who continue to live in guilt and shame. They praise God for His abundant grace but then live as if it’s been withheld. Worse, as if grace is somehow no longer needed, moral perfection was obtainable, and their failure to consistently live as Christ desires proves how worthless or insufficient they are.

If only they prayed more, or memorized more Scripture, or attended more Bible studies, then they’d live more like all their smiling, hymn-singing friends flooding their social media feeds. But all their striving leads to temporary behavior modification at best, leaving them feeling worse than before.

I think this hiding and self-condemnation, exists, in part, because we’ve given hurting, reactionary, flawed, and broken people power over us and our emotions. We’ve made their perceptions our standard instead of our relationship with Christ. As a result, we’ve traded the life-affirming growth of Christ for perfectionism.

Perfectionism paralyzes every time. It eventually drags us backward as we substitute time with our Savior, simply resting in His presence—no hiding, conniving, or striving— with checking off lists and following rules. As we do, our self-reliance grows, weakening our dependence on Jesus.

Our source of power, hope, and life.

And we wonder why we feel so defeated, exhausted, and consumed with guilt. For being unable, in our own strength, to demonstrate the power of grace.

A while back, while going through a particularly challenging time, a ministry team member confronted me regarding a series of behaviors. Some were inherent to my “dream-big-and-run-fast” personality, others from inexperience, and tangled between the two, lay my pride. In the past, that pride almost always initiated defensiveness and hiding, turning what should’ve been a growth opportunity into regret and yet another reason for shame.

Yet another reason for self-condemnation.

Only this time, that didn’t happen. Armed with a more robust understanding of grace, when I sensed a reaction rising, I mentally hit pause and reminded myself of what I knew to be true: That Jesus loved me, had died for me, forgiven me, and was growing me.

More than that, I reminded myself of grace and the simple fact that I needed it as much that day (and every day) as when I first trusted in Christ for salvation. My weaknesses were simply proof of what He and I already knew—that apart from Him I was (and am!) a hopeless mess!

Therefore, with the joy of my liberating Father welling within me, I was able to smile and say, “You’re right. I really stink at that, and here’s how God’s growing me in this area.”

That simple statement, “Your right,” defused her anger, my fear, and placed me exactly where I needed to be—in a position of dependency on Jesus.

That’s where strength, freedom, and life-change are found.

Image of a flower with text pulled from post“This is eternal life,” Jesus said, speaking of heaven but also of the here and now, that we would know, through an ever-deepening relationship with our Creator, God the Father and Jesus Christ, whom God sent. (John 17:3). To experience the abundant, thriving life Christ promised, we need to recognize how completely dead, apart from Him, we are.

And then determine to do something about it, not by working or trying harder but instead by connecting deeper.

Let’s talk about this! Are you living in grace? A great indication of this is how you respond to constructive feedback, failure, and personal weaknesses. If you find yourself getting defensive, that probably indicates you’re not consistently living in grace. Share your action steps, celebrations, examples, and prayer requests with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from one another.

Additional Resources:

 
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Discovering Who God Created Us to Be

Woman in hat smiling

Our purpose, infused into our hearts before we took our first breath, is universal and will never change–to know God and make Him known. How we express that purpose, however, is unique to all of us. We’ll never truly feel fulfilled until we discover and live out who Christ created us to be. My guest today, author and blogger Robin E. Mason, shares how this has proven true in her life.

What’s in Your Heart

By Robin E. Mason

“What’s wrong with me?”

I asked God that question more than twenty years ago. I had no sense of purpose or identity.

“Sit down.” I could imagine Him answering me. “This is going to take a while.”

And it did. An emotionally excruciating and physically exhausting three years of counseling. I “happened” to choose that spring to work in the yard. And as I dug up rocks to make way for daisies, I felt like the same thing was happening in my soul; God was digging and uprooting years and layers of lies that had burrowed deep in my heart.

Years, a lifetime really, of hearing “You could have done better,” had translated into nothing I did was good enough. The most staggering statement was, “You’re nothing but a failure.” Even though I knew better intellectually, it didn’t even faze me; it was the summation of what I had accepted all my life.

I grew up believing the Bible was absolute Truth. The Bible says I’m to have an “abundant” life. But mine didn’t fit that at all. I suffered depression, worked at jobs that didn’t satisfy me. Believing lies will do that. And no matter how hard I fought to be “better,” I never was.

I was a single mom and I worked to provide for my children. I did what I had to do. The problem was fighting to measure up to someone else’s standard for me, and not Father God’s design.

In a particular counseling session, my pastor held his hands out, cupped as though he held a grapefruit in each. One hand, he said, was Bible Truth. In the other were the lies I had believed. He put one hand on top of the other; the lies say this. Then he switched hands. But the Bible says. He repeated this a few times, and it registered in my broken mind. That was twenty-three years ago.

Long before I asked that fateful question, Father God had been laying groundwork to bring me to that point of recognizing the disparity between my life and His plan. And I’ve watched in the years since then as He unfolds one mercy after another—so that I like myself now, and I can say without vanity that I’m a pretty cool gal! And fun to be around!

Which brings me to my writing. Stories have always been in my head. But I was pushed in other directions, pressure to be something I’m not—someone else’s ideal of success. The stories were there; I just didn’t know I was meant to write them. But as I was struggling through the anguish of counseling I began writing—almost as a Divine form of therapy.

And for all I’ve put my hands to over the years—the temp assignments, jobs that were just awful, so many I’ve lost count—nothing has “fit” like my writing. Once I got swept up in that first storyline, I knew. This was, and is, and has always been, that desire of my heart. The words. They speak to me. They reach into me. Whether fiction or His Word.

What’s in my heart? Stories that speak to the sense of identity. Stories that help others know who they are, and to embrace and live in that knowledge. Stories that reach into the heart of others, who, like me, don’t know and aren’t living the life God intended.

Take a look inside your heart. What secret dreams are hidden in your there? How can you begin the journey to live in the fullness of Father God’s plan and purpose for you?

Get to Know Robin!

Robin's author photoMs. Mason writes stories of identity conflict. Her characters encounter situations that force the question, “Who am I really?” For all who have ever wondered who you are or why you’re here, her stories will touch you in a very real—maybe too real—and a very deep way. “I know, I write from experience.”

Ms. Mason has seven novels, Tessa, Clara Bess, and Cissy, in the unsavory heritage series, and The Long Shadows of Summer, The Tilting Leaves of Autumn, The Silent Song of Winter, and The Whispering Winds of Spring in her Seasons series. All of Ms. Mason’s books are available on Amazon, both for Kindle and in print. She also has several poems included in an anthology, Where Dreams and Visions Live (Anthologies of the Heart Book 1) by Mary Blowers, as well as a short story, Sarafina’s Light, also in an anthology, Blood Moon, compiled by Mary Blowers. She is working on a on One for the Price of Two, the first story in her new series, FourSquare, to release next year.

Visit her online HERE.

Check out her new cover of her debut novel, Tessa:

When you pretend to be something you’re not, it always finds you out.

One mother. Two daughters. One favorite. One not.

When Cassie Barclay is presented with an opportunity – or is it a curse – she jumpsCover image for Tessa at the chance. She takes on a new life, her sister’s life, and although at first, it holds appeal and promise, she soon realizes sometimes the fairy tale is tainted.