Just before Christmas I was able to squeeze in a local Christmas lights sight seeing with our youngest children. Unfortunately we spent almost an hour in traffic before seeing any displays.

We sat there as patiently as we could, my husband playing games on his phone to distract himself and the girls chatting in the backseat. A little voice came from behind me…

“I wish I could name a cloud,” Monica Jr. declared.

She was probably remembering when I shared that Peter had payed for a star to be named after me when we were dating. It was a cute idea; naming a cloud.

“Well… that’s a neat idea honey, but clouds don’t last so it would be silly to name them. They’re just vapor in the sky that floats away.”

The words I spoke were oddly familiar:

Men are only a vapor; exalted men, an illusion. Weighed in the scales, they go up; together they are less than a vapor.

Yes, even the exaltation of having a star named after me would not last. That distant ball of fire and the records naming it for me would all one day be vapor just as my earthly life and name.

Along with even the beautiful flowers of this world, I will fade.

But I have a new name.

God named me.

I have new life.

That name is as eternal as the life I have found in Him.

He named me because He has given me permanence in His kingdom; a right to reign alongside His Son, even.

What an honor!

I don’t know that I ever grasped the significance of being named by God so deeply as I did the day my toddler decided she would like to name a cloud.

I don’t know that I have ever been so grateful that my Father has chosen to call me His and give me a new name.

I pray that you take seriously the implications of such a simple, yet permanent gesture. We may not know our new names yet, but we can be sure that they are everlasting just as we are everlasting in Christ Jesus.

May you walk in that new name; in truth and in confidence of your Father this year.

Your sister,

Monica

*If you would like to but have yet to accept Christ as your Savior, I would be honored to walk with you through this step! Feel free to contact me here, and I’ll be in touch ASAP 😉

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I’ve been falling off the devotional wagon a bit with all the hustle and bustle.

I love my friends and family SOOO much but if I don’t keep the Lord first and guard my time with Him, all those other relationships could suffer.

They need Christ in me… not the fleshy, frantic and frustrated Monica.

In light of our tendency to get frazzled this time of year, I’d like to pass onto you a great little list of scriptures for Advent to help us all stay focused on our Savior.

As always, you are each in my prayers and I love you dearly.

Your sister,

Monica

**List originally appeared here. Don’t forget to check out the other Christmas resources at Crosswalk.

December 2

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

December 3

James 1:17 ESV

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

December 4

Luke 12:15 ESV

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

December 5

Matthew 2:2 ESV

Saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

December 6

Micah 5:2 ESV

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

December 7

Luke 12:33-34 ESV

Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

December 8

Zechariah 9:9 ESV

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

December 9

Luke 2:8 ESV

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

December 10

John 1:14 ESV

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

December 11

Matthew 2:11 ESV

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

December 12

Acts 20:35 ESV

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

December 13

Isaiah 7:14 ESV

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

December 14

Luke 6:38 ESV

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

December 15

Luke 1:46-47 ESV

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

December 16

Matthew 6:33 ESV

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

December 17

Romans 6:23 ESV

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

December 18

Matthew 1:23 ESV

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

December 19

Isaiah 11:1 ESV

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

December 20

Esther 9:22 ESV

As the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor.

December 21

Luke 2:10 ESV

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

December 22

Luke 1:14 ESV

And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,

December 23

Matthew 1:21 ESV

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

December 24

Luke 2:11-14 ESV

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Now that the Devil’s Day Debate has simmered down, I thought I might stir the pot a little with some truth.

(How else can I excuse munching on handfuls of my kids’ candy? I need the sugars for brainpower to blog, of course!)

Yep. We “celebrated.” Let me tell you why:

1) Celebrating Halloween won’t send you to hell any more than celebrating Christmas will get you to heaven.

I figured I would go straight for the throat on this one. All the religious fanatics out there who think that someone isn’t saved just because they don’t do things exactly like you can pretty much stuff it.

This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of in my life and I’m not giving it any more space on this blog. Sorry not sorry.

2) The devil doesn’t get a day. They’re all God’s days.

If you really believe that Jesus is sovereign in this world, then this language wouldn’t even be in your vocabulary.

I understand that there are people who celebrate Halloween as part of an unholy religion. Unfortunately for you, those people consider this day to be very holy.

It’s gonna be quite difficult for you to witness to people if you keep demonizing them once a year (they’re not all devil worshippers) while you attack your Christian brothers and sisters. I’m pretty sure unbelievers are not gonna come to you when they have problems and let you pray for them.

Stop saying this nonsense and stop damaging your witness.

3) It’s a “meat to idols” issue.

I don’t broadcast our family’s participation. It’s not the world’s business. I don’t hide it either because that’s just stupid. But since I’m open on social media and minister to so many people it’s bound to come up.

I used to be too concerned about what everyone thought; not because I wanted to please but because I take my position as a teacher and leader very seriously. The reality is I would be doing you all a disservice NOT to discuss the issue.

If you are somewhat religious you already know what I’m talking about with meat to idols. Go read it again. If you’re new to walking with Jesus, it’s a great passage to digest while navigating this new life you’ve found.

It’s gonna be quite difficult for you to witness to people if you keep demonizing them

The point is that we all have different levels of faith and God has called us two different things at different times in our lives.

Sometimes this means participating or abstaining in activities that make us look more or less set apart from the world. Trust Him to lead you through these times and for goodness sake…

For God’s sake,

Stop being so hateful toward your fellow man! Your pride is showing when you do this and it is far more hideous than any Halloween mask.

Excuse me while I polish off this candy bar and thank the Lord for it.

Your sister,

Monica

(Note: because I acknowledge that there is an unholy aspect to this holiday, my family abstains from all things that socialize realistic occult activity and I educate my children on the history of Halloween. This is not only in October, but a way of life for us. Spiritual warfare is real and certain behaviors are gateways for attack.)

Old wounds heal slow sometimes.

It took me 30 years to realize my earthly father had never really been a father to me. Though I prayed and cried much and received healing, the “loss” of my father could not be mourned in one day.

Our fathers are supposed to love, guide and protect us. For me that was not the case.

I look over photos of families and dads from yesterday and my heart breaks a little for what I missed out on. Instead of images of love I recall scenes of drama and violence.

“I can choose to see him as a child of God instead of an evil man.”

Father’s Day isn’t normally hard for me because I just don’t pay much attention to it.

I grew up celebrating my mother that day because she did everything for us and so I was taught that she should get honor on Father’s Day. It was just deflecting.

No one wanted to talk about my father or the hurt that surrounded the topic of his absence.

I tried to call him yesterday. Thought it was the decent thing to do. On the other end I heard the tone for a disconnected phone. I haven’t heard from him in months, not since my brother in law passed and I saw my father at the funeral.

Everyone wanted to ignore him then too.

I couldn’t. He is a hurting human being after all and everyone should be extended comfort in a situation like that.

I had an opportunity to show the compassion I had never received from him. I sat next to him and held his aging hand. I did my best to calm everyone when he started showing out for attention. I couldn’t help but wonder if he wouldn’t seek it so much had we just shown the love he was so desperately craving.

But none of us knew how to love well as children and our parents weren’t in the position to teach us back then.

I know how to love today.

I know that I can honor my father even though, the morning after Father’s Day, I am suddenly in tears because I don’t have one.

I can choose to see him as a child of God instead of an evil man.

It is not the people of this world but the forces of another we are up against.

I can choose to hold sorrow in my heart momentarily instead of building a permanent mass of bitterness toward him.

I can share this with my brothers and sisters in Christ, and with the world and hope that you find strength for the same forgiveness if you have endured an absent or abusive father.

As Christ forgave and loved us, may we also forgive and love.

Your sister,

Monica

This weekend hundreds of families will dress up, head to church services, argue with toddlers about how much candy they are allowed to eat, and check off the obligatory bi-annual religious activity until Christmas rolls around.

We tend to blame these casual church-goers as if this is all their fault.

It’s not. Jesus has made it very clear in His revelation to John (the book of Revelation) that the church will be judged first.

We have the responsibility to be active ministers of reconciliation. What this does not mean is inviting people to church services and then lamenting when they fail to connect with the gospel our pastor preached.

It does mean that we are to preach the gospel.

Sound weighty? It is. Glad we are on the same page… or did you think that Christ gave His life just for you?

I grew up hearing that Jesus died for me. That if I were the only person in the world who needed saving, He still would have given His life as a sacrifice for my sin. I believe that it true. However, I am not the only person in the world.

I have the personal responsibility (which is a joy) to share that forgiveness with the world.

It is unfair and downright disorderly that our apathetic behavior as Christians must be addressed so often from the pulpit.

Our leaders should have the freedom to preach the word and instead they are trying to rally us to do what Christ already commissioned.

When Jesus shows up and shows out we don’t need to be told to “tell it on the mountain”. In fact He told people not to speak and they STILL couldn’t hold in the good news!

This makes me question if the church at large is really walking with Christ like we claim or if we are no different than “Easter Episcopals” and “Christmas Catholics” (as I have heard these seekers called).

So my question for you is this:

Where do you fit into this story of salvation? Will you simply place yourself next to the “sinner” in the pew and hope for the best? Or worse; will you see yourself as inconvenienced instead of blessed by their presence because they’re sitting in “your” seat? (yes, Baptists I’m talking to you)

How about we all resolve now to risk the ego and live the dangerous grace that Jesus exemplified? Surely we can sacrifice our comfort zone in response to a sacrificed life.

My prayers are with you as you live boldly for the Lord as a powerful witness of His presence and live this Easter.

Your sister,

Monica

When I was a child, there was only one thing my mother would ever ask for when a holiday came around. It didn’t matter whether it was her birthday, Mother’s Day, Christmas, or some other occasion…

Her one wish was always that her children would “get along.”

As an adult and having children of my own, I now find myself repeating the same request. In our home it is often a daily request.

I have come to understand that this is the greatest gift that any child can give their parent: to love one another.

This is SO important, in fact, that God says love is GREATESTeven higher in importance than hope and faith!

“Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

1 Corinthians 13:13

God, our Heavenly Father, wants no less than love and unity for and from us, His children. It pleases Him when we get along and love each other! He even went so far as to inspire Paul the apostle to write that we should be of one mind to honor Him; that this way of living is “worthy of the gospel of Christ“!

“Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith that comes from the gospel.”

Philippians 1:27

This is a precious goal for Him to see accomplished in His children because He created us in His image, and He is one.

Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Interesting how the statement of God being One is immediately followed by the greatest commandment? He does nothing by accident. This passage is so sacred that it is regarded as a biblical commandment and recited daily by Jews, along with several following verses.

You know what follows? “Repeat them (these verses) to your children.”

Now, in real time where we try to flesh this out… it can be hard. That’s why He included the part about using “all your strength”. Our Father knows it is not easy! He came and died on the cross as Jesus… our Savior who sweat blood during His prayer! Yet, some of us Christians get our feelings hurt and start acting like the world owes us something. Y’all, this is NOT the way of our Lord!

Thankfully, God didn’t leave us to figure out how on our own.

We’ve got worship to bring in gratitude to a Father who IS love, in Whose presence we are redeemed by His blood and then guided by His Holy Spirit. We have received this Holy Spirit Who helps us bring forth fresh and bountiful fruit. The most important of which, is love.

We are enabled to love each other and the rest of the world as Christ loves us.

Our Father is not ignorant to why we would behave in an unloving way. He has, in His great wisdom, revealed to us the reason for lack of love in this world.

It is always rooted and selfish ambition.

Always.

(2 Corinthians 12:20, James 3:16)

It is not because of the irritating person on the train. It is not because of the mother-in-law you don’t want to see this Christmas. It is not even because of your trauma. It is you and your selfishness. I wish I could give a better, feel-good reason… but I would rather give you Biblical than “better.” However…

We have in our possession the secret to world peace. Jesus.

God Himself who came here and showed us how to live surrendered in Love. Jesus Christ, whom we are about to celebrate this Christmas. We have no excuse, with all the materialistic preparation we do, for refusing to get to know Him more intimately through scripture, prayer, worship, and meditation…

Then pursue this beautiful goal of oneness and love.

We go into this Christmas season with hearts full of Joy and we would do well to remember where that Joy came from; that it is not to stopat us but to flow through us to our brothers and sisters and to those that Jesus calls the “least of these.”

Love is for EVERYONE.

So, whether you choose to be a vessel of love for your extended family whom you would rather not see, the woman in the grocery store that has a declined card at the checkout, or a homeless man who just needs someone to sit and talk to for a couple hours so he can feel like the human being he is… Be loving!

For it is not when we love those who love us that the world is changed, but when we love those who are in need of love. Isn’t this what Jesus did for us? Isn’t this why He came to be born in the most unassuming way… so that He might redeem us while we were still sinners?

Start today, and by Christmas we will see miracles take place!

Be One. Be Love. Live in a manner worthy of the gospel.

Your sister,

Monica