Journal Entries
Every weekday you will find a journal entry here from someone different in our church family. 
 
Click the scripture title and scroll down to see a comments section where you can ask questions, share insights and post your own SOUL Journal entry for the day!
 

PARKING LOT PRAYERS

I pulled into the mall and started to slowly drive around praying for a parking spot.  This time of year a parking spot is as elusive to find as Bigfoot.  As I pulled down yet another aisle I saw the reverse lights of a car coming out so I stopped and turned on my blinkers.  Thank you God, you heard my prayer.  I saw the problem a little too late, the car was backing out in a way that blocked me from immediately taking the spot and in that moment another car swooped in and took the spot.  I admit, I almost lost my salvation!  After another five minutes of fuming and looking I finally found a spot at about the furthest spot from the mall.  Honestly I came close to just saying, “Forget it, I am not going to follow through on my shopping.  I am so mad and frustrated.”

I wonder if that is how Joseph and Mary must have felt.  I wonder if he prayed and asked God to show him favor and allow them to find a room in the town.  After all, they were doing “God’s work.”  God did provide a room but not in the way that they were expecting and I wonder if they could have missed the miracle because they did not see God’s answer because it did not look like the answer they were expecting.  Too often we are missing God’s answer to our prayers because it is a stable not a room.  We despise His answer and turn away from it and miss out on the amazing things that happen because we simply trusted and enjoyed the journey.

 

SAVORING

  • Philippians 1:9-11 (NIV) 9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10  so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11  filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.
  • Romans 8:28-38


THE RISK OF BIRTH

MADELEINE L’ENGLE

 

This is no time for a child to be born,

With the earth betrayed by war and hate

And a comet slashing the sky to warn

That time runs out & the sun burns late.

 

That was no time for a child to be born,

In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;

Honor and truth were trampled by scorn-

Yet here did the Savior make his home.

 

When is the time for love to be born?

The inn is full on the planet earth,

And by a comet the sky is torn-

Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.gift.

 

SAVORING
  • Romans 5:6-8 (NIV) 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

Just take a moment for all of it to sink in and savor the love.



IT’S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THIS HARD

When I said yes to God I must admit that I thought the rest of my life would be like the parting of the Red Sea.  Everything just going well and God just paving the way so that it all came easy.  So you can imagine my surprise that it has not been the story.  I wonder if Mary had some of those same thoughts? 

“I said yes to God, I am doing something of great significance, that I didn’t ask to do, so why is it so hard?  Isn’t God in this?”
“Why can’t we stay here in Nazareth and have the baby, why does it have to be so complicated?” 
“Why can’t we find a room?  Being obedient to God should not be this hard!  This could not be going according to God’s plan.  Someone screwed up!”
  • Galatians 4:4 (MSG) 4 But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law.
When the time arrived – in other words, God had planned all of these goings on.  The difficulty was all part of His plan!  And He did not spare His Son the difficulties either.

 

SAVORING

Is there anything in your life this time of year that makes you say, “It is not supposed to be this way!”  If so, is it because of your schedule and priorities of is it beyond your control?

Read Proverbs 3:5-6.  Is there anything in your life that doesn’t make sense, yet you are willing to trust the Lord and be obedient to His calling?

Read Isaiah 46:10-11.  What comfort can this verse give you.



WISE GUYS

Matthew 2:1-12

  • Matthew 2:11-12 (NIV) 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12  And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Today is Wednesday and so I was thinking about camels, which leads me to think about the Wise Men. 
(For fun… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2s0RPrdB_8 )

The Wise Men had studied for a long time and had travelled far and after much danger and having to stop to ask for directions (which is always hard for any guy to do, much less a wise guy) they find Jesus.  Put yourself in their sandals, they are expecting a king, it is the reason why they had stopped off at Herod’s palace; what they find instead is a two year old toddler whose parents are common folk.  Jesus did not meet their expectations so what did they do? 

They chose to worship.

They chose to believe.

They did not hold back their gifts but gave them freely.

 

How about you?  In a season where expectations can be shattered and lead to stress and despair will you still choose to believe in Jesus, to choose to worship and to not hold back? 

 

SAVORING

What are some unmet expectations that you are struggling with?
What will you choose?


THE SMELL OF CHRISTMAS

Matthew 2:1-11

I remember growing up Christmas had a distinctive smell to me.  It is the smell of freshly painted rooms (because that was a tradition for us at Christmas, cleaning and painting the inside of the house), it is the smell of ham, cakes and bread baking in the oven over a period of the two days before Christmas.  I am transported back immediately to my childhood when I smell these smells.  The Christmas story is filled with smells as well.

There is the smell of a stable, hmmn.

There is the smell of frankincense and myrrh. Those smells are significant to me.  The stable smell is a reminder that the God of the universe chose to be born in a lowly place.  He was brought immediately into the stench of the world.

He was given frankincense and myrrh.  Now we’re talking, gifts fit for a King but an interesting choice…myrrh.  Myrrh was used for treating wounds and pain and was an important ingredient in embalming bodies.  Funny that Jesus birth is replete with the smell of sin and death.  But we need to be reminded that this was exactly why He was born – to die so that we could have life.  His death was the sacrifice needed to make us clean – so that we could stand before God the Father without the stench of sin and death upon us anymore.

 

SAVORING

As you enjoy the smells of cookies baking and all the other delicious smells of Christmas let it remind you to give thanks for now stench of sin and death is no longer upon us. 



REMEMBERING THE WORDS

Luke 2:8-20

Some years ago I was at a pastor’s prayer time in December.  As we were closing the prayer time one of the pastors started singing Silent Night. 
 
Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright,
Round young virgins,
Mother and child…

Did I hear correctly?  Round young virgins?  I wonder how many time we have sung a song and never stopped to listen to the words (and in this case to correct it!)  We have sung it so long we don’t even realize that we have changed the words. 

This Christmas let us not sing the carols and forget the meaning, or change the words without even realizing it.  We need to go back to the source of the words and let them resonate once again with us.  The shepherds heard the word of the angels, saw the reality of those words and went away rejoicing because it was just as they had been told.  Let’s take time to remember the words of Jesus to us in this season. 

 

SAVORING

What word has God spoken to you in your life that you need to remember and rejoice over?
Stop and read through a couple of the Christmas carols that we sing and allow the words to truly resonate with you. 
As you hear Christmas carols throughout your day stop and thank God for His gift of life born to us through a round young virgin.


MORE SAVORY TIPS

Matthew 14:13-21

  • Matthew 14:19 (NIV) 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.

 

Ever feel like you have so much to do with so little resources?  There are more tasks than time in the day.  There are more needs than the money can stretch.  The list goes on.  In the story, Jesus has five loaves and two fishes to feed at least 5000 people.  What he does not do is complain, instead he takes what He has and offers it up to the Father and THANKS him.

 

One of the best ways to savor the season is to have a thankful attitude.  Maybe that is why we start the holiday season with Thanksgiving.  Keeping an attitude of thankfulness takes the focus off our circumstances and places it back on the God who gave us His son. In light of the coming of Christ to save us for our sins, long check-out lines, annoying family members, even the bigger things like finances and health disappear into the shadows.

 

SAVORING

Write down one thing you are thankful for everyday.
Go a step further and share it with a friend. 


TIPS FOR SAVORING

  • Matthew 11:28-29 (ESV) 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

 

Rest: Jesus invites us to find rest in Him.  In a culture that stresses doing, Jesus invites us to come and rest.  In a world that wants you to constantly give them more Jesus invites us to take from Him and learn the unforced rhythms of grace. 

Beyond resting in the relationship of Jesus we can choose to rest this season as well – even if that means some things are left imperfect or undone.

SAVORING

What areas can you take a rest from this season?
How can you rest and enjoy God’s presence today?


TIPS FOR SAVORING

  • John 13:1-17
The holidays are stressful. Shopping. Parties. Family. Finances. Hot weather…so we need to intentionally make room for savoring.  Here is one way we can do it…
 
Friends and Family (sounds like an ad for a phone plan)

Engage with your friends and family. People travel, everyone seems busy, but reaching out to your friends and family during the holidays isn’t just good for you, it’s good for them. Even a simple text message to say hi and ask how someone is doing can be the only light someone sees on a really cloudy day.

In our reading today Jesus is heading into the most stressful time of His life and what does He do?  He intentionally spends time with those closest to him.  He encourages them but I am sure that they were a comfort and help to him as well.

 

SAVORING

Make a list of people you will intentionally engage with and plan how you will connect with them.

Make a commitment to start every day connecting with God.



Perfection

We all have seen the Christmas commercials of what Christmas is supposed to look like…

The children with perfect hair wake up and run down a perfectly polished wooden staircase wrapped in garland and lights and ribbons to open up perfectly wrapped presents under the perfect tree as mom and dad sit on their perfect sofas and take perfect photos wearing their perfectly matched pajamas. Everyone gets what they want yet act perfectly surprised.

The perfect father in the perfect J. Crew sweater brings the perfect turkey to the perfectly set Christmas table as the perfect family with all their silverware in all the right places and crystal goblets full of water and wine eagerly await the perfect Christmas Eve dinner.

In real life, we head into the bathroom and take a break from our drunk uncles or our fighting parents or the annoying grandchildren and we check our Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Whatever we are given glimpses into the worlds of those we know who, for the most part, share their own images of Christmas perfection. We rest against the bathroom wall and wonder why. Christmas is love. Christmas is light. But for many of us, Christmas is one of the most difficult times of the year.
 
Maybe there has been loss. Grief.
Painful reminders of our brokenness or the brokenness of others.
We pause and we wonder. Why? Why me? Why this? Why us?

If that is you this Christmas season – if you are one who is hurting more than healing – you are not alone. The depths of the meaning of Christmas are for you. It’s not the smiling family or the perfect turkey or the iPad mini. It isn’t even the promise of feeling good during Christmas.

Christmas is a reminder that the One who is perfect – who brought His holy, pure love and grace to earth – became God and Spirit wrapped in flesh and was born into the most imperfect conditions because of one simple fact: He loves you. He loves you.

 
SAVORING
  • Luke 4:16-21 (NIV) 16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 17  The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18  “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20  Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21  and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Ask God to give you eyes to see His perfect love for you as you go about your days.