"Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges." --Philippians 2:6-7 (NLT) What Did Christmas Mean for Jesus? No words of mine are adequate To describe what it must have meant For the God of this universe To make it safe for us to converse With him, face-to-face, without a mask; Before his purity, we’d not last. We’d disintegrate, fall apart. (Arrogance would not be smart). He saw our sad condition And descended from heaven Into a human’s body; Depended on that mommy To nourish and to feed him; Let a human dad train him, Teach him the sharpness of a nail. (With a nail he’d be impaled). His hands developed calluses. His feet walked on roads of dust. He always listened to the Spirit; Never bragged about his merit; Distributed kindness everywhere, Taught us about submission and prayer; Got angry at injustices, Was honest in all his practices; Taught us what it means to live In harmony, and truly give God the honor he’s worthy of— Become united in perfect love. For doing this, he was mocked and killed. It was for us, his blood was spilled; It was for us, he conquered evil. It is for all, he’s prepared a table— A table of festivity That far exceeds what we now see. What joy awaits us if we choose To give up, now, what we will lose; And grasp, by faith, the final prize That Jesus sets before our eyes. Only then, will we recognize What Christmas meant for Jesus Christ. Jane Ault 12/25/20
The Sovereign Lord will show his justice to the nations of the world. Everyone will praise him! His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring, with plants springing up everywhere. Isaiah 61:11 (NLT)
HOPE While death is spreading through the earth, God is working in ways unseen. Peace and righteousness will spring forth. Evil and injustice have no claim. Like seeds planted in fertile soil, Nurtured in love and faithfulness, Light-filled energy will prevail. I sing with joy and gratefulness. Join me, my friends, do not despair. Focus your eyes on Jesus, Give Him full attention. He is here. In his power and victory, live. Jane Ault 12/23/20
For a few days, I fed on news reports, set no boundaries on my Google searches, and paid no attention to the time I spent doing this. As this activity increased, so did the level of anger, anxiety, and depression in my soul.
Last night I went to bed. I tossed and turned for a long time. After sleeping for three hours, I woke up. The same negative feelings flooded my mind. ”
What could I do?
Help me, God!” I prayed.
Nothing happened. My feelings did not change. I repeated my prayer.
“Help me! Help me! Help me!”
I waited. Repeated my prayer. Waited.
After a while, these words from Psalm 103 popped into my mind–
“Bless the Lord, my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.”
I continued repeating and meditating on this verse, eventually fell asleep, and woke with a joyful melody in my heart. What relief!
In this season of isolation and uncertainty, it would easy for me to fall back into anger, anxiety, and depression. What can I do to increase and maintain joy in my heart so that when Thanksgiving arrives (in 12 days), when Christmas arrives (in 41 days), and when 2021 arrives (in 47 days), I can celebrate truly celebrate?
This is my plan to increase and maintain a joyful heart. I will change my focus to one of gratitude. Every day, for the next 47 days, I will
- Read Psalm 103 (verses 1-5), reflect on God’s blessings, and thank him for them
- Write down as many gratitude statements as I can think of
- Read them aloud before I go to bed
- Read all of them on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Years’ day
- Send a “Thank you” message or affirmation to at least one person
How joyful is your heart? Does it need a little encouragement? If so, I invite you to join me and adopt my action plan. Start as soon as you can.
Or make up a action plan of your own. Share it with me and/or someone else.
Perhaps the first and second lines of my poem would better be written: “In this week that’s called ‘Election undecided'”. What a stressful time this is for our country and for the world! Let us continue to encourage one another, pray for one another, and work toward reconciliation and unity.
In this day that’s called “Election undecided”, When the world awaits Him who will be “knighted”— Magnificent God, Creator and Blesser, Righteous and Loving, Your reign is forever! Open our eyes To see what you’re doing; Open our ears To hear what you’re saying; Place in our hearts A desire to please you; Create in our wills Resolve to obey you. Oh, Father of lights, Sustainer of all life, Have mercy on this world Filled with violence and strife; Oh, great physician, Healer of all disease, Cause us to repent That war and pain may cease. May your will be done. May your kingdom progress, As your children live In obedience: Cherishing your word, Following your command, Expressing you love In ways that you’ve planned; Not living my chance, Nor distracted by threats; Not yielding to fear, Nor to greed’s excess; Displaying, instead, Gentleness and self-control; By the Spirit’s help, Possessing our soul! Jane Ault 11/4/20
Why do I vote? Who do I vote for?
The usual answers to the “why I vote ” question are
- It’s a privilege
- It’s an honor
- It’s my responsibility
- I can exert influence on politicians
Beyond that, voting causes me to clarify what I believe and take a stand for it. It tells me something about myself. I want to be shrewd, not stupid or naive, i.e, lacking in experience, judgment, or information.
Though I might lack experience in politics, I can become informed and learn how to make wise judgments. In making decisions about who to vote for, I consider more than presidential debates.
Here are some questions I ask myself when answering the “who do I vote for” question?
- Do I think through what I believe and why I believe it?
- Or I let others choose for me?
- Do I take into account the character of the candidate or do I disregard it?
- Do I consider all of the issues or just pick my favorite one?
- Must I vote totally for one party or could I split my vote?
- If my friends or family are strongly in favor of one candidate or party do I automatically vote with them?
- If I vote differently, am I willing to share that decision?
- What place does my faith have in determining how I vote?
As the above Proverb tells us, there’s a danger in being naïve. We have a tendency to take shortcuts and to make quick judgments and hasty decisions without thoughtfully examining evidence and asking pertinent questions.
We can be tricked into believing safe people are dangerous and dangerous people are safe. How do we know who is safe and who is not?
Jesus compared people to sheep. He was called the “Good Shepherd”. He displayed his goodness in the way he treated people and in the way he honored Our Father in heaven. He lived a life of perfect love and integrity, truthful in all his interactions and fair in all his decisions.
He warned us about people who claim they are “good” but are actually thieves. He called them “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” He did not say, “Beware of sheep in wolves’ clothing” because a sheep never wears a wolf’s clothing. Sheep are not out to deceive people. They’re just set on following a path and they need guidance in order to find the right path. They need a shepherd.
When Jesus looked at the crowds of people in the world around him, he said that they were like sheep without a shepherd. I don’t think much has changed since his day. The world is full of sheep. Sheep can easily be deceived. They need a shepherd.
That shepherd needs to be a safe person. A safe person is someone with integrity. Someone who never deceives us. Someone who always tells the truth. Someone who is patient, kind, and good. Someone who does not expect perfection. Someone who does not condemn us when we fall down. Someone who walks beside us and helps us recognize dangers, not only points them out but teaches us to recognize the dangers ourselves. Someone who teaches us how to have discernment.
We need to ask questions. Appearances can be deceiving. A safe shepherd does not go around comparing one sheep with other sheep. They are all equally cared for and protected. He or she does not condemn sheep. He or she does not go around causing divisions among the sheep. A safe shepherd brings sheep together and teaches them to live in peace, unity, and understanding.
Because his or her self-worth is settled, a safe shepherd confidently makes decisions. He or she is not looking for approval or even acceptance. Nor is a safe shepherd hungry for power or control. A safe shepherd has control of his or her own life, shows us how to gain control of ourselves, and assists us in escaping the control of abusive shepherds.
When I look at the world today, I’m concerned. I see a lot of naïve sheep and very few safe shepherds. Yet I do not despair because Jesus is still alive. As we look to him, listen to his words, and follow the guidance of the Spirit he has given us, we will gain discernment and not be deceived by wolves dressed as shepherds.
I often feel angry about the destruction I see in the world around me and hear about in the media. How do I manage my anger so that I don’t add more of it to the mixture?
It helps me to remember that the tree of anger often grows out of a root of pain and/or fear. In order to discover the fear or pain, I slow down. Stop. Quietly listen to my inner conversation–the unspoken thoughts.
It most helpful, when I ask Jesus to be with me in this. I have a little talk with him. He listens. Then, as he gently addresses the roots of fear and/or pain in my heart, my anger melts into tears of relief. I feel loved. I can think more clearly. I gain self-control.
Gentleness is more powerful than anger because it’s an expression of love. Love does not threaten. It listens. When I’m threatened, I feel devalued and afraid. When I’m listened to, I feel valued and safe. Safe enough to talk about my anger, fear, and pain.
The “tanker full of anger” I describe in my poem might be someone you know. Maybe you. If so, find or be a person who can listen with love and speak with gentleness.
I’m a tanker full of anger. Don’t get in front of me. My throttle’s fully open; If I were you, I’d flee. I’m a tanker full of anger, Roaring down life’s highway; My brakes are not working. I think you better pray. I’m a tanker full of anger. It’s a very heavy load. If I don’t dump some of it, I’m afraid I’ll explode I’m a tanker full of anger. Unlit dynamite, I was created over time By things that were not right: Prejudice and pain, Injustice and neglect, Losses that I suffered, Failures to protect, Beliefs and attitudes That pushed me away, I’m a tanker full of anger. I wish that you would stay— I wish you would help me Unload successfully, Not injure self or others, Handle grief, effectively. 10/8/2020 Jane Ault
The clock moves on
but God is still,
Hurried flesh knows not his will.
Like Mary, we must turn aside,
give up pride,
leave our projects,
choose to wait.
We cannot love unless we hate.
We cannot live unless we die.
God will not rule
while we still try.
He will not force us to repent
but soon our days
will all be spent.
Time hurries on.
Choose Jesus, now, before time’s gone.
(Poem from, “Heart Connections: Finding Joy through Openness with God” by Jane Ault 2003.)
Last night I couldn’t sleep. I got up and read a few chapters in Paul Tournier’s book, “The Healing of Persons.” In it, he speaks about the necessity of accepting realities and conditions of life, such as the boundaries of time and limits of aging.
I’ve resisted these limits for too many years, priding myself about my ability to keep going regardless of my age. As I read last night, the Holy Spirit spoke to me. He showed me I’ve been lying to myself. To believe I am capable of doing everything I did when I was a few decades younger and doing it with as much speed as I did back then is a lie.
Does accepting my present limits mean what I have to offer has less worth? Not at all! The reverse is true. For example, when I accept and yield to speed limit signs, I feel more relaxed. I stop looking around for a police car.
The truth is: Refusing to accept and set limits makes me more limited. When I involve myself in everything, I fail to accomplish important things. What are the important things? There is only one.
In a conversation he had with two women, Mary and Martha, Jesus defined the one important thing in life– connection with Jesus.
Consumed with many things, Martha felt worried and stressed. Focused on Jesus, connecting with him, Mary found joy and peace. (This story is found in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 10.)
Jesus is my teacher. As I stay connected to him, he gives me clarity about everything else in my life. What to do. What not to do. His Spirit is my personal instructor. As I read Scripture, he highlights the words I need for the day.
Jesus is my Creator. As I rely on him, he gives me the strength to do that which is important. Jesus is my Saviour. When I miss my cues and wander off into rabbit trails, he corrects, forgives, and restores me.
Jesus is my constant companion and closest friend. When others I’ve loved have died or moved away, he’s remained. Staying connected with him is the one essential of life.
Is “devastation” not an appropriate word to describe the condition of this country and the world? Often, I weep. My heart pounds. I can’t sleep. I feel outraged. I don’t want to express this with hurtful and destructive words. Neither do I want to hide in fear.
What do I do? I pray. I spend time in silence. With Jesus. I sit on my deck or go for a walk and view the clouds, trees, water, sunset. I listen to singing birds and quacking geese.
After a while I have peace. The Spirit stirs up a new melody in my heart. I write a song or poem. The following is an example. May your heart be encouraged as you read it.
Troubled heart, remember Jesus He is good. He is kind To the fallen, he shows mercy He’s the healer of your mind In the midst of deep anxiety When you’re tossing in the night Ask the Spirit for discernment Receive his comfort and insight He says, "My child, I love you "Come closer to me "You were a captive to Evil "I died to set you free." Fearful heart, call on Jesus No one’s higher than he In his strong arm, he will hold you When in the smoke you cannot see In the night of terror and darkness When all normal help is gone What you knew is nonexistent Listen to your Savior’s song He says, "My child, I love you "Come closer to me "You were a captive to Evil "I died to set you free." Anxious heart, cling to Jesus Treasures of this world are dung Unless you’re willing to release them You won’t win the victor’s crown In a time when many shout “Arm yourself!” or “Retreat!” Stand for justice, love, and mercy Stay with Jesus on the street He says, "My child, I love you "Come closer to me "You were a captive to Evil "I died to set you free." 8/25/20 Jane Ault
I am writing this post out of a deep concern about the message President Trump is sending to the world about Christianity through his behavior. I cannot imagine Jesus Christ acting and speaking as he does. My heart weeps.
Some of you may be his supporters. I do not hate you or him. If you vote for him again, I will not hate you. I cannot endorse his re-election. I hope you will read what I’ve written and will ask God for discernment.
If you need carefully documented evidence of his unfitness, I recommend reading “The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump” edited by Ron Sider.
It’s thirty essays written by Christian scholars who love Jesus. They are not vindictive. They are compassionate and respectful. Some of them are Republicans, some are Democrats, and some are Independent. All of them speak the truth in love. They care about not only people of this nation but people in every nation.
Please consider President Trump’s behavior in light of the following two Scriptures.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8 NIV)
Who may climb the mountain of the Lord and enter where he lives? Who may stand before the Lord? 4 Only those with pure hands and hearts, who do not practice dishonesty and lying (Psalm 24:3-4 TLB)
A Plea to Donald Trump for Repentance God is in heaven. Revere and respect him. You are not in this office Because of your goodness, Because of your smartness, Because of your greatness, God’s our Protector, Not you! He’s our Maker. He loves all nations, all people; With him, every human is equal. He pays no attention to color of skin. It tells nothing at all about what lies within. Don’t call yourself “Greatest”, Or assume that’s your status Before God Almighty! Don’t take warnings lightly. If you don’t stop lying, You’re in danger of dying And facing his wrath; At proud mockers, he laughs. It says that in the Bible. Repent while you’re able: Care for the immigrant, The poor and indigenous, Show respect for women, Don’t treat them as stupid. They know how to reason. Hear all who’ve been wounded, By you and by others; God hates one who covers Up sin! Unless you become honest, You can’t claim his promise Of safety and protection Or eternal salvation; Don’t honor the thief and hold back relief From the poor and needy; Stop being greedy. Put an end to your twitter, Stop being bitter, Be respectful, not caustic, Don’t bash the agnostic. Close your mouth, pay attention; Please learn how to listen. Seek peace with all people, Return good for evil. Use love as your weapon, Not cruel words or a gun. Much damage’s been done By your uncontrolled tongue; Don’t brag about your rating. If you’re not relating With the fruit of God’s Spirit, Your work has no merit. What I see and I hear Fills me with despair. My heart’s deeply grieved By the way you’ve deceived Your unquestioning supporters; Who blindly take orders. I cannot trust you. How can I support you? Do my words hit the mark? God alone knows your heart. He will show you what’s true And what you must do, If you humbly seek truth, Don’t just accept what will soothe Your conscience and mind; Ask, “In what ways am I blind?” For your eternal well-being I am praying and pleading. 8/22/20
In a conversation with a friend this week, I described my early activity in the church as “I thought I could do everything so I did”. Of course, I could not do everything well. Also, some things and some people got left out. Sadly, sometimes it was my children. I did not recognize my limitations and lacked boundaries. I had the problem that leaders of ancient times had. Dallas Willard describes them in his book, “The Great Omission”.
He says the primary reason kings of Judah and Israel failed was because “they took more upon themselves than was warranted”. In other words, they ignored the limits (boundaries) of human strength and stopped relying on God (acted independently from him). They did not finish well.
I want to finish the race God has given me to run. I want to finish it well. I want to hear Jesus say, “Well done!” I assume that’s something you, too, want to hear. It’s possible for every one of us.
God blessed me with grace, showed me my past errors, and forgave me. He’s been faithfully teaching me what it takes to finish well. No matter what we’ve done or failed to do when we come to him admitting our failures and committing to change he will forgive us. We can get back into the race.
Simply stated, there are two parts to finishing well: God’s part and my part. God’s part is grace. My part is a choice to receive God’s grace. Accordingly, I call my website “choosinggrace”.
The grace God offers includes forgiveness, mercy, faithfulness, strength, truth (revelation of reality), love, gifts of the Spirit, fruit of the Spirit and much more.
My choice to receive God’s grace involves effort. There’s a lot to learn. Yet, as I connect with Jesus, it’s restful, not stressful work. To finish well, I must learn and practice disciplines. Disciplines which successful followers of Jesus practiced. These include solitude, fasting, meditation, Scripture memory, prayer, confession, celebration, fellowship, giving, and more.
Setting a boundary for myself, which defines the race God has called me to do, and sticking to it is a difficult discipline to practice. It means saying “no” to people who might be disappointed. It means saying “no” to my own desires, even good desires which distract me and keep me from finishing at all.
This fall I am starting, again. I’ve reviewed what it is God has called me to do, made plans, and I’m acting on them. This week I said “no” to my desire to be involved in several worthwhile events. I want to finish well.
Questions to consider:
What is that you’ve heard Jesus call you to do?
What discipline do you most need to learn in order to finish well?
Design your life to do, today, What you heard Jesus say This requires that you plan Though it’s not a written command Without it, you will drift away From what you heard the Spirit say If you want to finish well On this message you must dwell You must, also, work your plan And when you fail, just start again. Do not think when you’re corrected That you have been rejected Remember Jesus loves you Rejoice because he called you Discipline is hard (that he knows) Without it, no child ever grows. Without correction, you’d be dreadful Without correction, you’d have a head full Of information, not examined Of knowledge, not applied Design your life to do,today, What you heard Jesus say Jane Ault 8/20/2020