Receiving the Blessing of Christ in You

We have not been abandoned. Many people around us might feel completely abandoned, but Jesus suffered the greatest abandonment when he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus experienced that feeling of being forsaken so that they don’t have to. What better gift do we have to receive and offer others than an identity of sonship with the Father?

A few weeks ago, my husband Christopher was asked to give the Thanksgiving message at our church. Over supper one evening, he asked if we could work on the sermon together and I was delighted to get to sit on the couch and discuss it with him.

I’ve included the audio in two formats. The first one is my father-in-law’s radio program where Christopher got to share it, and the second is just the straight audio from his talk.

Happy listening!

Words of Hope

Audio File


5 Sacrifices We Can Offer to God This Thanksgiving

Like potty training accidents and moments of defiance, sickness isn’t really something you can plan into your schedule, (though now that I have two kids, it’s a little easier to see it coming. Example: My preschooler got a runny nose, became even more affectionate toward his little sister, giving her the cold, which passed to my husband who had to go to work feeling sick, and finally after a few days of trying to make everyone feel better, I got to join in the nose-blowing fun.)


As the regular household chores were pared down to keeping the kids alive and a few meals cooked, I struggled with the feeling of uselessness, accomplishing even less than the current pace of life I’ve tried to get used to with having two kids. Time to study the Bible is even more interrupted by inconsistent nap schedules and a tired mommy brain.

It’s made me want to enter this season of Advent and the wonderful family and friend Christmas extras that are added to the schedule with a greater awe for Immanuel—God with us—leading and guiding how we go about our days.

But how do we know how to spend our time?

First, we need to figure out what roles God has called us to in light of the future inheritance we have, which will never perish, spoil, or fade. (I Peter 1:4)


Called to Be a Priest

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5 ESV)

So what does it actually look like to be a priest on this side of the cross?

How can I be a priest as I go about my other wife-mother-friend-daughter-sister-church member roles?

First, we need to remember that our ability to be a priest rests solely on Jesus’ work as the Great High Priest. He was tempted in every way, yet kept the law perfectly so that we can receive His righteousness on our behalf. Even now, He intercedes for us so that we can approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Only then can we hope to offer the smaller spiritual sacrifices that reflect His greatest sacrifice on the cross as we intercede between and on behalf of others.

Jen Wilkin, in her Bible study on 1 Peter, pointed us to some Scriptures describing five different kinds of spiritual sacrifices.

  1. A broken spirit and contrite heart

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:15-17)

  1. Our bodies

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)

  1. Proclaiming the gospel

But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:15-16)

  1. Praising God by acknowledging His name

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (Hebrews 13:15)

  1. Doing good and sharing what I have

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13:16)

Just like God’s gracious blessings are both physical and spiritual, our sacrifices to Him may or may not be seen before they are offered like incense before God’s throne.

Each moment I invest in praising God for who He is, thanking Him for the specific physical and spiritual gifts He helps me to recognize, and surrendering my body for His use, it is a sacrifice to Him.


Every time I invite Him to search my heart and draw me to repentance, it is a sacrifice to Him.

And when my heart is focused on the goodness of God, it prepares my heart and mind for talking about that goodness with others.

I can be thankful for each opportunity to do good that He provides: each spoonful of pureed peas, each moment of listening to a friend pour out her struggles, each repeated read of the Katie the Snowplow book , and each cycle of planning a menu, shopping, pulling ingredients out of the fridge, cooking, serving, and cleaning up.

As we prepare for Thanksgiving, will we be content to stop at spending a moment thanking Him for the physical blessings of good food, family, and friends? (Or merely join with the world in the feeling of “being thankful” with no one to direct our thanks to?)

What other sacrifices might God be inviting us to give for our good and His glory?

*If you’d like to read a Thanksgiving fiction piece I wrote last year, click here.

Thanksgiving Joy (an original short story)

tap-791172_1920Rachel pushed the frozen turkey down into the water-filled sink.

Some of it sloshed over the top onto her socks. She’d been up five times last night, and not once had she thought of thawing the turkey.

There’s no way her mom would have forgotten to buy the turkey until the night before Thanksgiving.

This morning she hadn’t even heard Patrick leave, but there must have been an emergency at the electrical plant for them to call him in on a holiday. She turned on the oven.

Pulling out the potatoes from the closet, she picked off as many of the eyes as she could and opened drawer after drawer, trying to find her vegetable peeler.

Cassidy stomped into the kitchen, her blanket squeezed between her crossed arms. “Bryce told me I was too little to play cars with him. He said I always mess everything up.”

Rachel wrapped Cassidy in a hug, but the girl stood firm as a tree trunk. “Maybe you can help me find my vegetable peeler.”

“You’re just going to let him be mean to me?”

Rachel took a deep breath and let Cassidy lead her to the bedroom. Bryce was on his stomach, piecing together a race track. “Have you seen my vegetable peeler?”

Bryce bit his lip. “Um, me and Kirk were digging trenches for the ants yesterday and one of us kind of snapped it.”

Cassidy put a hand on her hip. “Mommy, you’re supposed to be giving him a spanking.”

Rachel bent down, but couldn’t think of what to say. She heard squeaks coming from the other room, followed by Grace’s wailing from her bassinet.

feet-946366_1280Rachel leaned her head against the doorframe.

Even in her first three weeks of life, Grace seemed so much needier than the other two had been . . . unless she had blocked those first newborn weeks out of her mind.

If she waited much longer, Grace would have an even harder time latching on. She winced as she stood and scooped Grace into her arms.

Sinking down into the recliner, she heard something whack the wall, followed by a “Go away!”

At least Grace was content, and Rachel wasn’t as sore as she’d been yesterday.

A charred scent filled the air. Not wanting to disturb Grace, she tried to use her free hand to stand. Grace whipped her head to the side and crunched her face as if Rachel had pinched her. Sighing, Rachel set her down and bolted over to the oven.

She pulled out the cookie sheet of three leftover chicken nuggets, which now resembled charcoals. Dumping them outside, she opened some windows and tried to coax Grace from her anguished state into nursing again.

Cassidy and Bryce’s voices crescendoed from the other room, so she threw together peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and set up a show for them.

The turkey still felt like an iceberg in the sink.

How had her mom done it with three kids of her own? Dad hadn’t let them get a TV until they were teenagers. Rachel had always been annoyed when her mom made her work in the kitchen all morning, especially since her brothers only had to help Dad put up the Christmas lights.

Christmas lights. She hadn’t bought any new ones in three years, since there had been a short in part of one string.

She grabbed a glass dish. She could at least put together her green bean casserole while she was waiting for the turkey and avoiding the fact that she’d have to peel the potatoes with a knife. Pushing aside cans, she finally sat back on the floor as she realized she’d used her last can of mushroom soup two nights ago.

When she closed her eyes, her hunger came on her like a bear, so that she hardly knew what she was doing until the bag of Cheetos was empty. She’d never seen her mom nibble on anything while they were cooking the big meal.

Crumpling the bag into her fists, she tossed it onto the floor. If only she could call her mom now. She’d know how to whip it all together.

Rachel wiped her eyes. Giving birth to Grace had made her even more emotional than she thought was possible. Lots of people lost their moms, and many more of her friends would in the next fifteen years.

But no one else knew what it was like to lose her mom. She just wanted the meal to be like she’d had growing up, since it was the first Thanksgiving without her. Why had she invited her mom’s best friend instead? So that she’d have someone else to witness her failure?

The doorbell rang, and she dived for the Cheetos bag, stuffing it into the bottom of the trashcan. When she passed the wall clock, she thought for sure it was broken. It couldn’t possibly be 3pm. That meant that if she put the turkey in now, they might be able to eat by eight. The thought made her throat constrict, but she swallowed hard before opening the door.

hands-195653_1920Marilyn stood outside, clutching a tin-foil covered pie pan and wearing her plastic rain bonnet, which she tied on even if it wasn’t calling for rain.

She stepped around Rachel and across the living room into the kitchen. Rachel saw her survey the surroundings as if it were a crime scene.

“I thought I’d come over a little early to help get things ready.”

Rachel shuffled toward her. “My vegetable peeler is—“

“Of no concern. It just so happens I put a few things in my freezer when I thought my niece and nephew were coming. I’ll be back in twenty minutes.” She steered Rachel out of the kitchen.


Cassidy came bursting into the living room. “It’s my turn to pick a show. Bryce always picks boring ones.”

Marilyn bent down. “I’m going to need your help soon. Can you start setting the table while I’m gone?”

Cassidy’s eyebrows lifted. “How did you know that’s my job?”

Grace started to whimper, so Rachel picked her up.

Marilyn turned to Rachel and nodded toward the kitchen. “Remember, not one foot in there unless Cassidy can’t reach something.”

By the time Rachel had finished nursing Grace, Marilyn was carrying in grocery bags. She took Grace from Rachel’s arms and set her in the baby swing. “What perfect timing. Now you’ll be free to lay down until supper is ready.”

Rachel grabbed a bag and started setting dishes on the counter. “What are you talking about? I can’t let you do it all yourself.”

Marilyn’s eyes wrinkled. “Who do you think helped your mother out when you were Cassidy’s age? And I can assure you a Norman Rockwell turkey was not on the menu.”


Rachel woke to a soft knock on the door. She’d only planned to lay down for a few minutes before helping Marilyn. When she opened the bedroom door, the smell of turkey made her mouth water.

“How did you—“

Patrick took her arm and pulled out her chair. She sat down, feeling like she was in a dream. There was even a small candle lit on either side of the platter of turkey loaf. Her eyes scanned the paper table cloth where Cassidy and Bryce had drawn pictures of turkeys and pilgrims.

A can of cranberry sauce. Greenbean casserole. A small dish of mashed potatoes in a foil pan.

Marilyn handed her a paper napkin. “They make it pretty easy these days.”

“You said when you helped my mom, you didn’t have turkey. But I wanted to make it just like I remembered.”

Marilyn laughed. “You think she did a whole turkey dinner with three little kids running around? She didn’t start the real fixings until you were old enough to help.”

After a few minutes, Bryce pressed his lips together. “Can we have pie now, or do we have to wait?”

squash pieMarilyn took off the foil. “I think I have a little extra room in my hollow leg.”

Cassidy peeked under the table, gently poking Marilyn’s knee until Marilyn put a slice of pie in front of her.

Rachel let Marilyn dish her up a piece, too. When she took a bite, she almost choked. She’d thought it was pumpkin. Tears burned her eyes. “It’s just like hers.”

“Your mom always made the perfect squash pie. I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to follow her recipe exactly.”

Rachel let the last bit of crust rest on her tongue before chewing. “I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t come. You fixed everything.”

Marilyn placed her wrinkly hand over Rachel’s. “Can’t you see that nothing was ever broken?  Your mama would have loved sitting at this table. I see so much of her in you. But sometimes you both needed to just see the elegance in a microwaved dinner. “

Rachel stood to help clear the dishes, but Patrick tugged her over to the couch. “I’ll take care of it. I think the kids need to hear a little more about all the work you had to do when you were helping your mom with Thanksgiving dinner.”

Cassidy bounded over to the couch. “Can I hold baby Grace?”

Rachel tucked pillows around her and placed Grace in her arms. Bryce snuggled into her side while she rubbed his back. “Hey Mom, do you think we can have this food again sometime? I could help you even.”

Rachel laid her head on top of his. “I’d like that.”

How to Jump Out of the Comparison Trap

How to Jump out of the Comparison TrapHer children are so much better behaved than mine.

She works full-time and still finds energy to bake cookies for the kindergarten class.

At least I don’t act like her.

Do you wish you could escape from the running commentary in your head?

I used to think that I should be much more concerned about my outward actions than what was bouncing around in my thoughts. After all, who was I hurting if I didn’t voice my judgments out loud?

Like a weak seam, every time I chose to compare myself with someone, a piece of my heart would tear a little more. As the hole widened, it allowed more and more destructive thoughts through. I figured that if I felt guilty enough, I could whip myself into shape.

But it only grew worse.

Timothy Keller, in his book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, says that “the way the normal human ego tries to fill its emptiness and deal with its discomfort is by comparing itself to other people. All the time.”

I couldn’t change my behavior until God led me to the root of the problem: my nature without God.

This nature has a best friend called Pride.

Keller says that “spiritual pride is the illusion that we are competent to run our own lives, achieve our own sense of self-worth and find a purpose big enough to give us meaning in life without God.”

How to Jump out of the Comparison TrapIsn’t that what Adam and Eve ultimately wanted when they said they wanted to be like God? (Genesis 3:4) If they were like God, would they need Him anymore? If we were better than everyone else, would we?

Keller quotes from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, saying that “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next person.”

Better is only better if we become the best. Think of someone really successful–what happens if they don’t maintain their current level of perfection? Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?

For a while, I tried to just ignore my thoughts. That worked about as well as climbing Mt. Everest in a swimsuit.

I needed an identity change. Keller reminds us that “it is only in the gospel of Jesus Christ that you get the verdict before the performance.”

We can’t do it on our own. But because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, paying the price for our sins, we don’t have to. Romans 8:1 says “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” He has become our righteousness, so when the Father sees us, He sees Jesus’ perfection. Because we are identified with Jesus, the Father’s verdict “You are my beloved child in whom I am well pleased” applies to us as well (Matthew 3:17).

Keller explains that the apostle Paul, by calling himself the chief of sinners, acknowledges his sins but does not connect them to himself and his identity. Neither does he connect his accomplishments to this identity.

When our identity is not based on our performance, we can grow in gospel humility.

Keller puts it well when he says that “The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less. . . I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself.”

It’s not about me or them. It is only from this place of security that we can join in the fight for our thoughts. Here are some things that have helped me when unhealthy thoughts come knocking.

1. Remember it is a constant battle.
There have been times when I felt I could never change. Knowing it is a constant battle has helped, especially when I remember the Spirit is on my side, interceding on my behalf (Romans 8:26).

2. Practice the discipline of stopping your thoughts.
This isn’t something we can grit our teeth and do. After we ask for and accept God’s forgiveness, we can say, “I don’t want to go there, God,” knowing He’s the One who can bring true transformation.

3. Ask for God’s vision and perspective.
Sometimes, we can’t see the light at the end of the laundry or our thought patterns. My mentor challenged me to pray, “Jesus, please minister to me” when I feel stuck. Flip through the book of Psalms, and you can find countless cries for help. God always hears.

4. Talk to yourself.
K. Donovan, in her book Growing Through Stress, cited Martyn Lloyd Jones as sharing about the importance of “talking to myself instead of listening to myself talking.” When I let my mind roam free, it is easier to let destructive thoughts in. If I am proactively thinking about God’s promises and truths, it will leave less room for the other thoughts.

How to Jump out of the Comparison TrapAnd in the mornings when I’m so tired I can’t remember if I’ve showered or not, sometimes I need to listen to others speak the truth to me through online sermons, audio Bibles, and womens’ conference talks. (Click on the bolded words for some links.)

5. Give thanks.
Is there some way I can thank God for the person I find myself thinking about? Maybe I can say a quick prayer for them. Appearances can be deceiving.

Sometimes it also helps to just start telling God everything I’m thankful for.

Timothy Keller’s short book, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness brought so many of these concepts together for me in a clearer way than I’d ever heard before. It takes about an hour to read, and you can find it here.

And if you’d like to share some of these truths with the children in your life, you can check out Max Lucado’s “You are Special” here.

Carolyn Mahaney also wrote an excellent post on comparison entitled, “A Loving Rebuke.” 

Only God can change our comparison to blessing. Fight in His strength.