Stacy Voss

See life differently. Live courageously.

Anchored by Intentionality

Two separate writing-related emails came my way yesterday, both of which talked about a writer’s biggest challenge: time. Then the prompt for today’s Five Minute Friday link-up hit my inbox early this morning. The word of the week is intentional.

Okay, God. I get it. At least the concept.

Time is slippery. Sneeze and it’s gone. Where did the day go? we ask, or worse yet, How is it already 2018?!?

If I’m not careful, my days are spent tackling the thing of the moment–whether that be an important email or a trivial topic that holds my attention. I can jump from one to the next while missing out on what matters most.

In my upcoming book Reflecting Easter, I write about a little phrase that deeply impacted me:

As was his custom.

Let’s look at it in its context to understand its power. The NIV says it this way, “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him” (Luke 22:39) but the NASB says it like this:

And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him. (emphasis mine)

Jesus was used to crowds pressing in, eager to hear his words or witness a miracle. He could have allowed himself to be inundated with his work at all hours of the day, yet his “as was his custom” anchored him to his first priority: communion with his father.

The things we do “as is our custom” are the things that anchor us.

Is it our custom to binge watch tv? To make time for a friend, even when our schedule is a little too full? To soak in God’s word? To drain ourselves at work in pursuit of making it to the next rung?

What do these things tie you to? More importantly, What are you anchoring yourself to?

The things we customarily do anchor us. What are you anchoring yourself to? Click To Tweet

Stacy Voss

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Earning the Right to be Narrow

“I feel like we stopped midway through our last conversation,” my neighbor said as we took an afternoon walk together. “I mentioned that I thought the Bible was offensive, but later realized that might have offended you.”

I inwardly let out a sigh of relief. She had told me on our last walk about going to a church that sometimes preached Jesus’ words, and other weeks talked about Buddha or Gandhi. I never really responded to that at the time as the conversation turned quickly, but I sensed this opening to comment now. Problem was, I didn’t have a clue what to say. Just days before a homework question in Bible study prodded about what to say to someone who believes all paths lead to eternal life. Let’s just say I didn’t give that response the attention it deserved, yet here I was with another opportunity to respond.

God, help. You know these prayers, these unspoken pleadings. Intervene now, please. Don’t forget that prayer as you read on, for what I said next never would have otherwise come out of my mouth.

“I absolutely agree,” I told her. “I, too, think the Bible is offensive.”

“Really?” she asked, her sigh audible. “How so?”

“Well, it says that Jesus is the only way. Most people don’t want to hear that because we want to think that if we’re good, then we’ll have a favorable outcome later, but the Bible doesn’t say that.”

“So that’s what offends you?”

“Actually, no, but I know it turns others off.”

She told me how she views Jesus as a good man who loved well but didn’t have a purpose beyond that.

“Funny, because we’re both saying nearly the same thing, but yet what we both believe varies just enough that it has a completely different meaning for both of us.” I went on to explain that I, too, believe Jesus is the ultimate model of love, but said the place where we view it differently is that Christ’s love has an eternal purpose. I explained that when Jesus died on the cross, God turned his back since all of our gunk was too much. Simply, sin and God don’t mix and all of our sin piled upon Jesus in that moment left God with no choice but to temporarily turn his back.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

“No one before or since has ever demonstrated that level of love for us. Jesus came to this earth knowing exactly what he would endure, yet he still decided to do it all because of his deep love for us. That kind of sacrifice earns Jesus the right to say that he is the only path to God.”

Jesus' sacrifice earns him the right to say he is the only path to God. Click To Tweet

Friend, in a world where we’re supposed to be PC–even at the risk of forfeiting what we believe–let’s be sure to never undermine this ultimate sacrifice by pretending it is just one of many paths.

Stacy Voss

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The Gospel of Cookie Exchanges

I love cookie exchanges. In fact, I’m quite certain they were created just for me. You see, I get to bring my cookies in, you know, the ones that can never be determined if made them or my kids did. They’re a little burnt (okay, maybe more than a little), are crumbling and are decorated in a way that would shame a two-year old.

I’m sorry, people. I don’t try to make ugly cookies (anyone want to trade the ugly sweater tradition and begin ugly cookies with me? I’m all over that one!), but despite my best efforts, that’s exactly what they are.

Which is precisely why I love cookie exchanges.

I bring in a plate of ahem–cookies–and get to trade my messy slop for an exquisite assortment of tasty goods in every shape and size. I may or may not have pretended in years past that said slop never originated from my house. Case in point:

“What are those?” someone in line in front of me asks, “and why would they bring them here?”

“I have absolutely no idea,” I respond. Sorry, but I reserve every right to fib when it comes to claiming what food I have prepared.

I finish walking through the line, gathering some of everyone else’s cookies while everybody must take a few of mine (again, I’m sorry. Truly I am) and walk out with a plate of goodies worthy to distribute to the neighbors.

I have no idea how cookie exchanges came to be part of the many Christmas traditions, but I for one am beyond grateful for two very important reasons. The first I already shared: you all save me. Thank you!

But the second is the one I really love. Cookie exchanges tell the gospel, at least when you put yourself behind my apron.

I don’t mean to bring the ugliest cookies imaginable. It just happens that way. Similarly, I don’t mean to do the things that cover me in ugly stains, those selfish ambitions that run deep, the mean-spirited words that slip when I’m much too tired, and so, so much more. And just like I want to pretend like those less-than cookies aren’t mine, I’d much prefer to present the “good” me to Christ.

But alas, my best efforts fail me. I can squirm and hide as much as I want, but the bottom line remains: those cookies are my cookies and this sin is my sin. It’s kinda like this year’s cookie exchange, the very one that I was asked to speak at and I shared this story. Oh, and the same one where each participant had to write their name on a tag next to their plate of goodies. Thank you very much. I’ll just say that I came home with twice as many cookies as I went with because no one dared take any of mine (note: you all are wise and I hold no hard feelings whatsoever).

With my name beside the cookies, there was no hiding the fact that I was the bearer of the ugly. Revelation 20:12b says, “And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.” Notice that it isn’t referring to the Book of Life, the one in which names are recorded of those who profess their faith in Christ. The books talked about in this verse list out the very things we’ve done in our lives.

Yes, that’s so much worse than placing my name tag by my cookies, but here is the most beautiful gift of all:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

We know the story, the great, unthinkable truth as Christ took our burnt-up, bitter “cookies” and exchanged them for the perfect, unblemished kind that could only be offered by a perfect, unblemished Messiah.

Oh, sweet mercy.

Today, let’s celebrate the birth of the ultimate exchanger, the One who makes these cookie exchanges offer so much more than a temporary delight, for His birth–and then His crucifixion and resurrection–are the only things capable of giving us a gift that lasts for eternity.

Merry Christmas, my friend.

Stacy Voss

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