I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. Do You Hear Them?

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. Do You Hear Them?

Oppression Is A Heavy Burden

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day. Their old familiar carols play, and wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”

Can you hear them? I hadn’t. I couldn’t. I’d been waiting, wishing, and even desperately trying to conjure their sound. I needed to hear it, the words of the truth that “peace on earth” could be real. Was it real? Was it even possible? I sat at the piano, playing with my right hand while holding the hymnal in my left. Life was rough then, oppression was heavy on my shoulders. It was tangible and the weight was having an impact. I played on.

Is Peace Possible?

“I thought how, as the day had come, the belfries of all Christendom had rolled along th’unbroken song of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”

I believed. I’d spent my childhood learning these messages and songs of peace and joy. Though I’d doubted through my teen years, I’d recently met and fallen in love with my Lord and Savior. Yet, there I was, seriously questioning whether peace was possible. Satan was doggedly determined to hurt and destroy me, using even the people I loved and cared about most.

Why Is Evil So Strong?

“And in despair I bowed my head: ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said, ‘For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men.’”

I did. Just as the song had said, I played the notes, read the words, and bowed my head. I was defeated. I was hurting and lost. Why was I losing everything I had? It seemed impossible to protect those I loved. Why was I so strongly being attacked? I was convinced, at that moment, that peace was not real, and mocking its reality was appropriate. How could hate be so strong? Why could one intentionally and ultimately succeed in taking another’s peace away? The timid, the weak, and the loving always seemed to be attacked. We are no match for evil. Why can’t we win? Can’t the world see that we are not the ones wrong, that we are being wronged? “Why?” I sobbed.

God Revealed Them – I Heard the Bells!

“Then peeled the bells more loud and deep: ‘God is not dead: nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to men.’”

Oh my goodness! I heard the bells! Did you? The answer was there, in black and white, in the reverberating sound of tolling bells. I’d read the words, I reread them once more to be sure. I felt it in my Spirit, deep within my being. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail WITH PEACE on earth, goodwill to men. I can hear them!

The bells tolled in my heart that day. I felt an immediate relief from the weight that had wrapped its heavy darkness about my shoulders. It physically felt different!

God Is Mightier Than Evil

My life transformed instantly. My heart’s focus on Christ deepened as my trust of Him and His plans for me became more concrete. I wasn’t going to “win” in any earthly way that would show the public how great I was or how I was being done wrong. No, I was going to “win” because I was now able to experience peace regardless of circumstances, something my enemy would never be able to feel. The desire at that time to care what people thought or judged of my life disappeared. I lost the need to be in control of my circumstances, because I knew God was really in control. I became confident that the worldly failure or success people were waiting to see was insignificant. The peace God gave to me that day was the ultimate Christmas gift!

God’s Peace Can Be Experienced in the Midst of Chaos

“Till ringing, singing on its way, the world revolved from night to day, a voice, a chime, a chant sublime, of peace on earth, goodwill to men!”

The world continued on, revolving and shedding its light and darkness upon our lives in an endless pattern, seemingly normal. No earthquake alerted the population of God’s touch that I’d experienced. No public win of any sort occurred exposing my goodness to the world, or the evil of my enemy for that matter. Life went on, but as it did, my heart’s desire changed even more. I prayed for peace. I prayed for others to experience and believe in the peace that I was experiencing. It did not take away difficulty. It did not mean a lack of problems. Peace was not what I had always expected it should look like. I felt the power within it, and one day, I came to the realization that I wanted desperately for my enemy to experience it as well.

My Prayer

Father, I know that only those that You draw will meet and experience the beauty of a relationship with Your Son, Jesus Christ. I pray, this Christmas season, that You touch many in need, that they experience the transformation that leads to Your peace which passes all understanding. Let them hear the bells! I pray they sense Your love and guidance and grow to trust You, for that brings comfort and confidence in Your plan, regardless of circumstances. In Jesus name, Amen.

Check out “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” as sung by Casting Crowns.

In Need of Peace

In Need of Peace

“The Son of man is come to save that which was lost. Lost…In the fog of life, many of us feel lost, afraid, hurt, in need of peace. Talk to Jesus. Let His powerful light in. He will comfort and heal the lost and the broken.”

The Sun Shining Through on a Foggy Morning

Recently, I posted the above picture and encouragement on Instagram and Facebook. I received a few comments. One, in particular, brought to mind God’s power of revelation. “When is Jesus coming? … I feel like we’re being sold lost hope,” they wrote. That’s a powerful statement, and there’s truth to it.

Where does hope lie? Does hope lie in lessons taught or behaviors practiced? No. It needs to come from Someone greater. Are the dark circumstances throughout the world causing hopelessness? Hope can’t come from earthly conditions. Likewise, earthly incidents can’t take hope away. True hope only comes from the Creator. Literature, videos, and sermons based on what we’ll experience some day when Jesus returns or when we reach Heaven inundate us. There seems to be a lot of hope in a distant event as if we can’t enjoy a relationship with God now. That is discouraging. We can enjoy a relationship with God now. And furthermore, we can experience His qualities of peace, joy, and love now too. Ultimately, I want to encourage all that God holds the answer. He IS the answer to every question. Here is my Facebook response:

“Jesus came and died a Savior for the lost. Those words, “The Son of man is come to save that which was lost,” came from Him. I agree though. We’re being sold a lost hope. Perhaps it’s a “false” hope, sold by man.

When hope lies in what others are telling us or in what we’ve studied and work to apply we will struggle and lose hope. No amount of studying and applying techniques will bring about true peace. It’s not something in the distance, just beyond reach, taunting us until we figure out how to feel it.

Peace, joy, love, and freedom are qualities of God, our Creator, and are experienced personally when we are in a deep and intimate relationship directly with Him. This can be immediate. When we become fully centered on Him, ask His Holy Spirit to fill us, and dwell in His Presence, those qualities fill us and hope is found.

It’s nothing that can be experienced by learning or trying, earning or applying. The hope and joy of God comes by revelation from Him only. That is why it takes a relationship with Him to fulfill it. We don’t have to wait for a future coming, our death, or Heaven in order to have hope fulfilled.

Jesus said He must go so that He could send those of us who ask a Comforter (the Holy Spirit) which will guide us individually into all truth. Talk to Him! Get to know Him. Invite His powerful light in. God does comfort and heal.”

So let me encourage you to turn to God. If you’re lost and broken and in need of peace, or if life is difficult and you’re weary, look to Him. It truly is that easy. God is the ONLY One who can fill you with peace and joy. Ultimately, there is no twelve step program that imparts true peace or love, because those are God’s qualities to impart. Face Him and talk with Him. When you seek, you will find. Be insistent. Ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit. His Spirit living within you also fills you with His qualities, and you can rest in them, drinking of them. You will find comfort there so desperately needed.

God sends His Holy Spirit to fill those of us who seek Him. When is Jesus coming? Is His coming a lost hope? Direct connection to Jesus through the Holy Spirit quenches that question. Certainly, it comforts and encourages us to continue on in hope. Through His Holy Spirit, God reveals truth to us. Revealed truth imparts hope that is concrete. Rather than a sense of lost hope, we can sit at the feet of our Savior, enjoying His presence today.

Blessings on your journey with your Creator,

Rebecca

For more encouragement, join my mailing list today! What are you thoughts on peace? Drop me a comment below. Also, if this message was encouraging, share it with others. God bless you.

The Image of Faith

The Image of Faith

The image of faith. What does it look like? When God’s Holy Spirit lives within us and His qualities fill us to overflowing, that image is visible. Yet not all can see it. Those that God intends will see the image of faith shining in us. That ignites those He calls to their own journey into relationship with Him. A journey toward peace, love, and joy.

Click the video below for more on this message from Rebecca.

Outwardly, a life trusting God may not seem unique or different than most. Life is still messy. Tragedies will still occur. Things will be difficult at times. However, when storms hit, choosing to focus on God is the answer. Asking for His Holy Spirit to dwell within, inviting Him in, welcomes all that God is to fill you. His joy, gentleness, love, kindness, and peace influence your life. His strength and direction become available as well. Trusting and believing in God and His will brings a sense of His peace that nothing on this earth can equal. It satisfies, soothes, and edifies.

At first, when we grow in relationship with Him, God’s qualities fill us. We sense His unconditional love and thrive in it. Forgiveness for ourselves is found as His revelation of forgiveness sinks in. We realize our value when it becomes evident that He created us intentionally. Purpose and joy take root. We believe and trust in our Creator. Eventually, that image of faith becomes evident outwardly. However, not all can see it. God reveals it to those who are thirsty for the same. It ignites their own journey into relationship with God.

Seek God. Talk to Him. Get to know Him. The faith that results brings the greatest treasures. Nothing compares. You too can radiate the image of faith.

Apart From the Law

Apart From the Law

Jesus’ life was sacrificed as forgiveness for our sins, ushering us into a time of grace. His death also granted us direct access to God. By letting go of the obligation to try to be and do good and embrace constant relations with Him instead, we’re able to live apart from law.

Stepping aside so God lives through us, we’re able to truly be free. Focusing on relationship with Him, His Holy Spirit enters in. By being a submissive vessel of His Spirit, God’s very qualities fill and shine forth from us. In this manner, Biblical covenant law isn’t rejected, it’s fulfilled.

It’s beyond human comprehension. Being focused on God and filled with His Holy Spirit achieves both freedom from and fulfillment of law. Embrace that relationship!

When Christ is first and foremost at your center, He is able to live through you. Click to listen to this 3 minute, 22 second message Apart From the Law.

For more, check out my message and 8 minute, 50 second video Freedom Is Yours.

Silver Linings – Blessed in Marriage

Silver Linings – Blessed in Marriage

Today, my husband and I celebrate thirteen years of marriage. Please enjoy this story I’d written more than two years ago about our relationship.

The fair is somewhat quiet around me. Tomorrow should be more promising. There are always slow days, after all. I never worry about it. God’s got a plan, and I’m contentedly going along for the ride. We pulled in two nights ago with our used RV, set up camp, and then set up my booth. I sell my wares like a traveling gypsy. I’m a Christian fiction author, and my husband of more than ten years and I travel most weekends to craft and agricultural fairs to market the books I’ve written, a part of my job I thought I’d dislike but truly love.

Chris Acting Corny at the Fair

As a self-employed plumber, today he left me to fend for myself so that his customers’ needs are attended to. He’s a good and honest man, and as a plumber, is in great demand. Without complaint but hesitant to leave, he kissed me goodbye. We’ve talked between text messages and phone calls probably ten times already since he left. Jokes, questions, arranging life for our family, we always seem to have so much to share.

“How’s the honeymoon suite?” the vending manager asked us last night, smiling. He kindly fit us in last minute. Aside from the rooster that doesn’t seem to understand time at all, our campsite is wonderful. People often comment about the happiness we apparently show in each other’s presence, as if we are newlyweds. They’re surprised at how long we’ve been married. They think it’s sweet that we’d hung out together as teens. After high school, when young adult choices had us moving in different directions, he suggested we go together…as a couple. I couldn’t imagine that. He was too nice for me to consider any romantic connection. He wasn’t my type. I moved south, he went west.

As I’d known all those years ago, he’s a nice guy. Now I realize, he’s just my type. I’ve never known any man to be so giving, caring, devoted, and selfless. I wouldn’t be living my dream if it weren’t for his encouragement and constant support. He’s the backbone of our family and, aside from God, he is the strength and guide I lean on.

At home, our life feels simple. We’re content. Small town, big old farmhouse, parcel of kids who are getting older, some already moved on. We enjoy each other’s company and choose a walk around town on occasion.

Forever in Love

“Where are you working tomorrow?” I ask as we round the corner and cross the street. We continue chatting, sharing our day, our hopes, our plans. His movement is subtle and quiet as he switches sides, slipping between me and the traffic. I smile. He’s protecting me. It’s such a stark difference to the hurt imparted by what I used to think was love. How did he get this way, I wonder? His childhood home-life was fractured too. He ran the streets with little supervision or boundaries. How did he become so thoughtful?

As young children we spent a period of time living only houses from each other. Me, at the top of the hill, him at the bottom. I don’t ever remember him from then, he remembers me. Our families were both poor. High-water jeans and second-hand clothes didn’t seem odd, it was just normal. Playing in the dirt in the yard and riding rusty old bikes brought happiness, to both of us I imagine.

I could say it’s been a long road, but in reality it feels like time is flying by. The blessings we’re experiencing now are humbling, to say the least. It’s not about the comfort we’re finally afforded after so many years of living on the financial edge, constantly teetering between having and not. It’s not due to any lack of difficult life issues. It’s the peace that has filled our lives that we’re most grateful for. I recall this journey’s beginning, the first chapter of my present life, a hesitant step into faith and hope for me.

Chris and Rebecca

 

I’d sat there curled up on my couch watching TV and crying. John Ritter had just passed away, and his wife was heartbroken. She commented on how close they’d been, that they always looked forward to connecting at the end of each day, whether by phone or in person, depending on their schedules. I felt sad for her, but her heartfelt torment highlighted a deficit in my life. I’d never known a love like that. I’d never been in a long-term relationship where the company of my partner was desired, let alone looked forward to. Arguments that scarred, actions that destroyed, that was life. Not just for me, but for most couples, as far as I could see. Trust and any sense of security had long been confirmed by me to be nothing more than fantasy.

I grew up in a home where tension and toxic stress settled and thrived. The results of which lay wait in me for years, anxious to rear up and render me helpless and afraid. As a teen, when my mother and step-father’s marriage finally fell apart, I became even more insecure and angry and sought attention in all the wrong places. Life was difficult, and at some point, I came to expect it would always be. Self-fulfilling prophesy? None-the-less, it was proving to be true.

From my perch on the couch, I looked around at the beautiful trailer I’d recently moved my four children into and felt sad. My second marriage had ended. I stayed longer than I should’ve, but I wanted desperately to honor my vow. I wanted to avoid the break-up of the family center, to spare my two youngest the struggles of fragmented households that my older two were already experiencing. My faith also tugged at my conscience. However, I was not coping well at all. The fear that gripped me in that house was too great, the effects of which were crippling. How much of my own deeply entrenched anxieties contributed, I’ll never know.

My gaze returned to the TV. I watched this newly widowed woman through blurry, tear-filled eyes, and I realized what true love sounded like. In my heart, at that moment, I felt God speak words of encouragement, “That love which you’ve never believed could be real is coming.”

I sat up more rigidly and wiped ineffectively at the tears running down my cheeks. You’d think I’d have been excited at such a declaration, but let me assure you, I had no desire to try love again. No. That’s what my heart screamed back. No!

At the Fair

The fair goers meander by, some browse, most walk on. Christian fiction is a niche genre, for sure. The conversations I’m fortunate to engage in at my booths are often uplifting and spiritually encouraging. Whether I sell a book or not, the blessing of these moments is all mine. The atmosphere makes me smile. I could never have imagined living this way, and it never would’ve happened if not for the love of my husband, the man God told me was coming.

“I don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up,” he’d said timidly. I laughed. We’d just reconnected and were sharing where life had brought us during the fifteen years since we’d last spoken. His life was just as fractured and difficult as mine. With his own broken family and bad relationship story relayed, I felt bad. He’d deserved a good life. He was financially drowning under a couple apartment buildings that were great investment ideas gone bad as the price of heating oil skyrocketed. Meager pay from his relatively new job as a plumber’s apprentice lessened the stress only marginally. It was nice to see a friendly face, though, to visit with someone who wasn’t judging me or my failures. The old comfort of being in the presence of a good friend was immediate. Of course it would be, he was a nice guy.

Though I pushed back, hesitated, and denied it all, one day that “nice guy” looked cute to me. I remember that moment vividly. My heart skipped a beat. “No,” I again begged of God. “I’ve no interest in getting hurt again. I don’t want my children to hurt again from a decision I’ve made. Please, no.” But the cloud of darkness that had overshadowed my life had a silver lining. All that God had allowed was going to contrast and highlight the blessings that were to come. Out of my hurting and scarred heart was going to come an appreciation that wouldn’t have been attained had I not endured life’s difficulties first.

“I do,” I said, facing the most amazing man I’d ever met. Our six children stood at our sides as we exchanged vows that a year and a half earlier I denied I would ever utter. I no longer felt like a failure. We worked with the brokenness of our mixed up family, and together, we made home feel like home. Funny, we never really had a honeymoon then, and so the vending manager’s words were fitting. Life feels like a constant honeymoon to me now. I look forward to seeing and talking with my love each and every day. I often think about that night of revelation and direction and smile.

Wedding Kiss

A twist of fate, an unexpected change in course, and a God given opportunity for both of us occurred years later. My husband, a master plumber at this time, was able to start his own business, and I became a published author. Now, he unwaveringly supports my endeavor to spread encouragement to the masses through my books.

“You’re beautiful,” he utters to me every day, and don’t you know, I actually feel beautiful. “I love you,” he tells me all the time, and I definitely feel loved. My husband’s never-ending and unconditional love and kindness make me feel like there is truth to his words, truth to my value as a person. There is so much freedom in a love like this that my world has exploded. Truly, God has brought to me that love which I never believed could be real. That silver lining has burst forth into full light, and its warmth and brilliance are most humbly appreciated.

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