Stacy Voss

See life differently. Live courageously.

Tag: Christmas (page 1 of 7)

The Gift of Favor

Have you ever received a gift that you loved, but despite its positive attributes, it also had some negative ones? For any of you that were gifted a Fitbit, your answer should be yes. Activity trackers are great because they provide that extra motivation to move a little more and to hit your daily fitness goals. But here’s the thing: it requires that we move a little more. Get a little sweaty. Go out for a walk, even when we don’t feel like it, which can be categorized as being not so great on certain days.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at gifts that were given during that first Christmas that have both positive and negative attributes. We’ll explore how those gifts continue to be delivered today and how they can impact our living. Today, we’re looking at the Gift of Favor.

Mary will serve as our example for both the positive and negative attributes that resulted from this gift. Let’s start with the good side first.

“God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth . . . to a virgin pledged to be married. . . The virgin’s name was Mary.

The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Luke 1:26-28, emphasis mine

This is the same angel who said to Zechariah, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news” (Luke 1:19)

We tend to skip over Mary, fearing we’ll give her too much credit and authority as others tend to do, but sometimes we go too far and don’t listen to her story close enough. Put yourself in her young shoes as an angel sent from God told her she was highly favored. How would you feel? What would you think?

That awareness did something to Mary, for how could it not? Listen in to the first portion of Mary’s song:

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.”

Luke 1:46-48a, emphasis mine

So often, we play the childhood game of “he loves me, he loves me not,” even (dare I say especially?) when it comes to God’s love. After Gabriel told Mary she was favored by God, how could she continue plucking the leaves off the flower of love-doubt?

Yet with that gift came the other side of the coin, for her favor cost her too. She nearly lost the relationship to the man she was engaged to. After all, how many guys would believe a story about becoming pregnant without having sex? In fact, it wasn’t just Joseph that discounted her story (at least until an angel told him otherwise). Add “reputation” to the list of Mary’s losses. She went and hid out with Elizabeth, probably in part to avoid the murmuring about her she knew would be inevitable about her.

She lost her home. Mary and Joseph left Nazareth to be counted in the census, but then God warned them in a dream to not return home and instead they escaped to Egypt. I have lived as an ex-pat in another country. It definitely has its joys, yet there were times I just missed home. Other days I wanted to be around people who understood my customs and on the nights when I was too tired to speak a foreign language, I longed for the easy flow of conversation in my mother tongue.

The list could go on and on, but you get the point. But the real question is how does this gift of favor continue to this day?

Too often, we use our circumstances as a way to determine if we’ve merited God’s favor or if we’re on the outs. When things are good, we rejoice that we’re “in.” But just as quickly, when things turn bad, we wonder what we did to make God upset or go back to believing that we never deserved His mercy in the first place. Ironically, we never did deserve His grace, but that shouldn’t ever be part of the equation, for that is precisely why it’s considered a gift and not a payment of something we earned.

For some, December is a time of rich blessings. For others, the days are filled with heartache and grief, and many of us bounce between those two ends of the spectrum. Wherever we’re at on any particular day, can you commit with me to not use that moment’s circumstances as a gauge to determine if God loves us or not? Instead, let’s dress ourselves in this powerful truth:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

Colossians 3:12, emphasis mine

Join me in embracing both sides of the gift of favor.

Stacy Voss

P.S. This is part of a Gifts of Christmas talk I’ll be giving at a cookie exchange/tea at Christ Community Church on December 16th at 9:30. They have graciously allowed me to invite you, my dear readers, to come join us that morning. I would love to see you there if you can make it! Please just shoot an email to cccdenver8085@gmail.com to let them know if you want to attend so they can make sure they have plenty of food for this free event.

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The Birth of Thankful Suffering: A Holiday Mash-Up

I’ve been busy editing my Easter devotional, Reflecting Easter: Living and Understanding the Resurrection while marketing my Christmas devotional, Savoring Christmas.  (I bet if someone leaves a comment asking me to, I’d be willing to post a picture of the cover of Reflecting Easter). It should come as no surprise that working on both has once again led to my holidays being a little confused.

Bear with me as I mix them up even a bit more by adding Thanksgiving to the mix.  Hard to believe it was just a week ago, isn’t it? It seems like we get ready for the day, buying the turkey and fixings but also spending as much time getting our hearts ready. Many post something they’re thankful for every day in November up until Thanksgiving.

And then here we are, in that land between when we really start celebrating Christmas and when Thanksgiving becomes a long-lost memory as we chuck whatever leftovers remain from the feast.

I think there are many of us who don’t want to carry that grateful attitude into advent because we’re entering a season that is deemed joyful, yet carries bitter scars for many. Some watch the sappy Christmas movies and mourn being single (okay really, just how did Hallmark come to decide that Christmas is about romance and love? Apparently I’m not the only one confusing holidays!). Others know that all the cousins or in-laws will be descending upon the house and grateful just isn’t the word that comes to mind. There are countless other reasons convincing us to celebrate Christmas throughout the month of December while giving Thanksgiving a few tryptophan-ingesting hours.

But let me mix it up a little with this holiday mash-up. You see, as I’m focusing on Easter right now, I’m reminded yet again that the one who’s birth we celebrate is the same one that said he had to suffer (Luke 16:21). Did you catch that? His suffering wasn’t optional. Funny how we’ve come to assume that ours should be, though, and when the suffering comes, the thanksgiving normally ends. But check out when 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says to give thanks:

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

All, as in even with when the in-laws are staying with you for much too long. I’m not saying it’s easy. In fact, I may or may not have texted one of you last week saying that a perk of being single is that I don’t have to deal with in-laws anymore. Sorry to rub it in, but that piece of thanksgiving comes readily for me, but I’ll have other ones that won’t feel as comical.

So here’s our challenge: even when things get chaotic in the next few weeks as we bake too many cookies, scramble to find great deals or scratch our heads trying to figure out what to buy for that impossible person, let’s commit to mashing up the holidays by giving thanks to the One who was born to suffer.

Stacy Voss

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Navigating Christmas: Lost

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

At least that what’s Andy Williams sings.

For some it is, but for others, it’s anything but. Rocky roads filled with in-laws, overly stretched budgets, and too many activities can take their toll.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to look at a few common obstacles we encounter while on those long road trips out to see family and look at how those challenges can be the same as those we face this time of year.

If you’re anything like me, one of the biggest roadblocks to getting where I need to be is me. More specifically, put me in a state that doesn’t have towering mountains that act like a large compass and I’m completely sunk. In fact, even when driving somewhere new in my mountainous hometown, one of the first things I do before setting out is to plug the address into my GPS.

I’m typically not a conspiracy-theory type, but there times a few years ago that I wondered if there was a secret cahoots between the navigation folks and the oil company. I’d be on my way, going down a main thoroughfare, when suddenly the voice informed me to turn right.

“But I know it’s further across town,” I’d think although I was heading someone I’d never gone to before.

“In 200 feet, turn right,” she repeated.

Being the ever dutiful person, I obeyed. The voice took me on a loop through a neighborhood and spit me back onto the major road I had turned off of minutes before–in the same exact spot!

“What are you doing?” I not-so-quietly asked the non-human that was providing me with directions. Not surprisingly, she didn’t respond. So the next time she told me how to get to my destination, I took a different approach. That’s polite talk for saying I got myself so royally confused I had no concept as to where I was.

I tend to get lost more often in December, whether that’s as I drive the kids to an outdoor skating rink we’ve never been to or heading to someone’s house to deliver some cookies. But I also get lost in a different sense. Sometimes its because I fret too much over to what to buy those I cherish. Other times its from trying to tackle the longer than normal to-do list. Other days it comes from wanting this time of year to draw me closer to the Messiah, yet I find myself preoccupied with things that just don’t matter.

Yet as I drive at night or sit on the couch nestled by my tree, the lights serve as a quiet reminder–a navigation pointing me back to Truth.

I am the light of the world.” John 8:12

Sometimes, this sense of being lost extends beyond the garland and mistletoe. A slow drift from the deep love we once held for that Light leaves us feeling too far away to even ask that inner GPS to lead and guide.

You already know that I’ve had words with my GPS before. Too many times to count, actually. But here’s the thing: the GPS has never responded back. Ever. Not even on the times when I thought I knew better and refused to follow it’s directions. No,

“Stacy, what are you doing? Why don’t you just listen to me?”

or

“How dumb can you possibly be?”

Sure, I have it coming, but the recorded voice doesn’t say it.

So if you find yourself lost, take some time to reorient yourself with the purest and truest GPS ever–that which promises to live in us to lead and direct.

Stacy Voss

What about you? What do you do when you lose your way? 

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