My Favorite Christmas Tradition

My Favorite Christmas Tradition.png

The following post originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of the Church of God Evangel in a segment called “Viewpoints.” The prompt was to talk about a Christmas experience that has made a lasting impact on my life. For the sake of clarity and consistency, below is the edited version as it appears in the original publication.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 1:1, 4-5, NIV

I love the way John tells the Christmas story. Sure, it’s missing the angels and shepherds and star, but John’s version gives us so much more, in a way.

The miraculous birth of Christ is an amazing story, but what is even more amazing is that it began long before that night in Bethlehem. It began long before the angel visited Mary, before Elizabeth conceived John the Baptist, even before Adam and Eve.

“In the beginning,” John tells us, before anything else existed, there was Light. Not the physical kind that was created on the first day, but a metaphysical kind, “the light of all mankind,” which allows us to see not just what is in front of us, but to see God himself.

In the beginning, God had a plan to reveal himself to humanity through the Light. On that first Christmas, the Light entered our darkness in the form of a baby boy. As The Message puts it, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (v.14). Christ came to us, waded deep into our mess, and brought us hope we never could have found on our own. That’s what Christmas is to me – light and hope where there was none before.

That’s also my favorite way to celebrate Christmas: bringing light and hope where there was none before. This year I will share my fifth Christmas reaching out to women in the adult entertainment industry. It’s not the only time I visit them; my friends and I take gifts and treats on every major holiday and several times in between, sharing love and friendship with those often hurt or ignored by the church.

I believe if Jesus were walking around our “neighborhood” in 2016, he would be leading the way through those doors to reach the people who don’t feel wanted, worthy, or good enough to approach him.

When I think about the darkness in our world, there aren’t many things that come to mind so quickly as the sex industry. Every day across the globe, millions of women, men, and children are sold for sex or adult entertainment, either by a pimp, trafficker, or – like many of my friends – by their own choice. The spiritual darkness is even darker than the literal dimness of the clubs I walk into, and it can feel overwhelming. In those moments I turn to John 1, where I am assured the light of Christ “shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (v. 5, NLT).

Christmas is my favorite time to visit my friends, because as we carry that light into the darkness of the sex industry, I picture Jesus entering our dark world, illuminating truth and hope for all.


Everyday Worship

Everyday Worship

This article originally appeared in the November 2015 edition of the Church of God Evangel, a magazine that brings inspiring, intentional, and empowering stories and articles to its readers. Click here to view the publication online or download a PDF.

It was a Thursday at 4:45 pm when our whole house was rushing around to get out the door. My husband, Jeremy, was taking our 3 oldest children to watch some of the middle schoolers in our youth group play their first volleyball game of the season. Meanwhile, I nursed our 3-week-old baby in hopes he would sleep in the Moby wrap while I attended a parent meeting for our new kindergartener. As Jeremy supervised everyone buckling into the van, he noticed a wet spot in our garage.

Stop everything – we had a leak.

We have pretty much no plumbing skills whatsoever, and even small leak looks enormous when it has been dripping for who-knows-how-long. We left messages for a few plumbers, but we feared how we could pay for their services with all the recent expenses of a new baby. Jeremy called our friend Bob, a retired pastor who now works as an insurance adjustor and handyman.

Within minutes, Bob was on the scene with his tools in hand. Not only did he stop the leak, but he returned the next morning with the parts to fix the piping, a fan to dry out the soggy cabinets, a level to entertain my curious little boys while they watched him work, and a promise to help with whatever further damage might come as a result. And he didn’t charge me a penny.

For Bob Shook, his service to my family is not just to my family, it is unto the Lord. He practices what he preached for many years: worship is not about a song or performance; it’s surrendering everything that we do to honor the Lord and to love His people.

In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus tells a familiar parable about sheep and goats – the “sheep” that obeyed God’s commandments and the “goats” that missed the mark. I heard this story scores of times growing up in the church, and it was always used to motivate Christians to service – to “be Jesus” to someone in need. However, when we look at the text, quite the contrary is true:

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’”

When we serve others, we are not “being Jesus” to them. Rather, those we serve are identified with Jesus, so our service to them is direct service to Him. That’s worship.

Maybe plumbing isn’t your thing either, but that doesn’t mean you can’t worship the Lord through serving your neighbor. Next time you mow your grass, take an extra 20 minutes and mow for the widow next door too. Make a meal for someone who is grieving. Host a baby shower for a single mom who is scared she can’t make it on her own. Bring your kids to a nursing home to read to the residents. Clean house for a new mom who hasn’t slept since the baby was born. Pay for the person beside you at Chick-fil-A whose credit card won’t run. Be honest in your business dealings, and seek to serve before you make a buck.

There are so many ways to worship because there are so many ways we live. Rather than putting worship in the box of a church setting, look at your life and what you’re already doing. Ask God to show you how to use those daily activities to honor him. And when you ask, you will receive.