Devo for the 3rd Sunday of Advent: Joy

While on Christmas tour, my son Ethan, 11, called me with some fun news to share. He had spent all day Saturday, from 8am to 5pm, taking a class required by the state of Minnesota to drive a snowmobile! It was a long day of rules, information, and training. Then on Sunday at 1pm, the day he called me, he took his driving test to attain his snowmobile license. The news was good news indeed.

He passed and was now legal to trek across the globe on a snowmobile (kinda).

What caught my heart was as I was talking to him, he seemed like he was trying holding something inside. It was actually when I said to him, “Dude, you should be proud of yourself.” He said back to me, “I am, Dad. It’s just hard to talk because I can’t stop smiling.”

Ethan's face of Joy

Ethan’s face of joy

That’s fun!!!

Webster’s dictionary says the word “joy” is a noun defined as: The emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect possessing what one desires.

Ethan was experiencing some real joy!

So how does that happen during Advent? We sing “Joy to the World” and “Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee” yet for many joy is way down the to-do list. All the stuff going on drains the tank. For some of us it is a really hard season for any number of reasons like a loss in the past, to fears of loneliness, hardships in the present time, and so on. I get that…

Ok, so if you’re not feeling the well-being, success, or good fortune, how do you find the joy that’s makes it hard to not smile?

First, look into the manger and see the very face of the One who is the giver of real joy and peace and realize you bring Him joy. Remember a verse like Zephaniah 3:17:

“The LORD your God is with you; He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you; He will quiet you with his love; He will rejoice over you with singing.”

That perfect God with no reason to fulfill a duty or obligation and has no needs, looks at you and me and takes delight in us. It’s like that we are His favorites…because we are.

Now, take that truth of how your Heavenly Father looks at you and live in it. When you know that the most powerful God of all is proud of you and adores you, no matter what you’ve done or how messy it is, what does that do inside of your heart?

Doesn’t it make it hard not to smile? Isn’t that the prospect of possessing what one desires? That desire being love.

Ok, so here is your assignment: As soon as you are done reading this, pick a Christmas song that brings you joy. Whatever song it is, TURN IT UP! And then…are you ready?

DANCE! Dance a weird dance; dance with someone in your house. Dance with your eyes closed like no one can see you. Just dance, friend.

You are allowed to dance and enjoy it. It will be really hard not to smile.

It’s a good taste of joy.

God is good all the time.

Peder

It’s Love. The Second Sunday of Advent

I am currently sitting on a plane after a concert on my Love Has Come Christmas Tour.  A bit tired, squished in my seat, and cold because apparently we need to make the airplane feel like a Minnesota winter to keep the holiday mood real. Oh, a blanket would be nice right now…

So with Delta-frostbite I’m trying to type out this devo for Second Sunday of Advent. The second candle on our traditional wreath represents love, a word we recognize as the heartbeat of God the Father. It’s actually who He is. There is so much we can write. The power of love, the abuse of the meaning of the word, and so much in between. So for our devo, I want you focus on what it feels like to be in the presence of the genuine, godly and what I would call advent love.

photo credit: oddharmonic via photopin cc

Let me introduce you to Lonna Grabenstien. Lonna is a woman who ministers at American Lutheran in Gothenburg, Nebraska. She is a wife of many years, a mom of three awesome children, and now a grandma to three grandchildren. I’ve known Lonna for most of the years of my music ministry. We just performed our Christmas concert at her church and loved is what comes to my mind.

From the first step out of our vehicle on our arrival to the closing of the door of the truck at our departure I witness from afar the act of loving people like Jesus talks about.

As soon as we arrive and Lonna appears in the picture, there are kids begging for her attention, and everyone gets not just a courtesy but full attention to whatever question they have or even just telling her a story even if it has no relevance to what’s going on.

She listens with more than patience. She listens with joy. It is amazing to see. It’s constant. It has a touch of chaos. Every student is affirmed and even blessed with touch and words that have a feeling of destiny. You would think Lonna would get worn down to a level of just being tolerant but there is no way that’s happening. Every child feels like her favorite. I think they are.

Thanks, Stephanie!

It’s love.

Then there are the older ones. The junior high, senior high, and adults. It’s the same thing. In every introduction of anyone who comes our way, she speaks words of beauty about each person like I’m meeting a dignitary or someone who is about to cure an awful disease. It’s not a sale; it’s not a pitch. It’s real passion and understanding for each person who walks up to us.

It’s love.

When the concert was over, my dear friend Lonna was at it again so pouring thank yous and blessings onto everyone who came for the evening event. And then my heart was touched by how during our loading out of our production gear, she would encourage me with more stories and words of how she could see God moving throughout the whole concert and that there were so many people who needed to hear what was said.

It’s love.

You probably know someone like Lonna in your life. They are out there, and we love to be around them. It’s truly attractive and inviting and fun to be around those who love with more than just niceness but with true passion for who you are.

We just worshiped on the second Sunday of Advent. It’s about love. We remember that God has sent His Son Jesus at Christmas not out of duty, obligation, or need but because of something else.

It’s love.

My question to you is this: Do you realize you could be a Lonna to someone else today? Right now? Like even as you are reading this, there is someone in your life who needs what you have and you can give it to them.

It’s love.

This is a straight-forward challenge, directive, commissioning to you this week–well, the next four days–go give something real, unconditional, powerful, through your words, actions, giving, time, effort to someone very specific in your world and do it because you can.

You have all training, skill, and resource necessary to succeed. You can not fail. Why? Because…

It’s love.

God is good all the time

Peder

Hope! The First Sunday of Advent 2012

Hey my friends,

It’s that time of year again, time for my traditional Advent devotions. I have received many posts and emails wondering if I am doing them again and the answer is YES. I am honored to know these devotions are helpful and even useful to you and your family.

This year I am about the Advent candles. The candles are symbols of what we want to focus on each Sunday during Advent. I like candles. Candles have a great ability to change the mood of any room and atmosphere.

The candle for the first Sunday of Advent – Hope!

photo credit: mtsofan via photopin cc

How many times do we say the word hope in any given day? Phrases like “we’re hoping it works out, I have hope, and I put my hope in this or that”? We even have seen it in slogans like “Hope and Change” or “The Year of Hope.” Sometimes it’s just the line that says “I hope so.”

I wonder if hope becomes more like wishing.

I’m going to wish upon a star. I hope I win the lottery. I hope I pass this math test; I hope he asks me on a date; I hope she will say yes.

Does wishing take away the power of hope?

Webster defines hope this way:
1. to desire with expectation of obtainment.
2: to expect with confidence. 

 The archaic definition is to trust or put confidence in.

This sounds less like a wish and more like an expectation in something that is founded; perhaps an assurance in something that is proven or shown itself to be evident.

If we look at it like this, doesn’t it change where we put our hope?

The first candle for the Advent season is purple.

As you know, I am a devoted Minnesota Viking fan. Vikings are known for the color purple.  As a fan I hope one day they will win a Super Bowl. It’s what makes being a fan fun. But that’s not a life of hope; it’s a life of wishing. Remember, hope is assurance of something that has shown itself to be evident… perhaps not the Vikings. Ahhh, it’s just a fan thing, I think.

Throughout the Old Testament, the people of Israel heard about a King who would be the King of kings and Lord of lords! He would be the Messiah who would set all captives free. In Isaiah 11:10 it says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in Him.” For hundreds of years they put their hope in God’s promise that He would send this Prince of Peace for their freedom! They hoped He would come.

It wasn’t wishing. It wasn’t guessing. It wasn’t a lottery.

It was real hope.

It wasn’t the hope of the Israelites that made it happen. It was Whom they put their hope in that made the difference.

God has given us a promise of what we can obtain, of what we can expect with confidence, of what the Israelites could expect with confidence. God Himself has proven that He comes through with His promises.

God did come through like He always does.

This is a great place to start this Advent season.

What or who do you put your hope in?

I mean your life hope. Hope for your children, maybe how they will grow up. Hope for how you will live each day at school, maybe hope for who holds your future and dreams?

I can only answer these questions with Scripture…

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

This first week of Advent, take the time to look at what or whom you are putting your hope in.

Let me know your thoughts.

God is good all the time!

Peder