All Inclusive

Highlights and disappoints. Both were seen this past weekend during Mother’s day. For me, it was a full weekend with family events. Yet sitting now and reflecting on our time, it is not just the activity with family that stands out to me. It is also posts and videos. Stories shared by others which left an impact. Family at times is complicated. Messy. Joyous and heartbreaking. But it all becomes a blanket of fabric that has been woven together and wrapped around us.

One post this weekend was from someone I admire, Tracey Mitchell. Tracey and her husband have a ministry headquartered in Dallas. Not only is she a powerhouse speaker, but she also has a writing style that grabs your heart and pulls you into the story. This weekend she had a post that spoke volumes:

As Mother’s Day approaches and pictures of smiling families fill my timeline my mind and emotions drift in countless directions. My heart goes out to the seven-year-old girl who will put on a brave face and battle through feelings of abandonment and rejection. She hasn’t seen her mother in years; may never see her again. My stomach feels tied in knots when I think of the young woman whose husband was unexpectedly killed last month. This will mark her first holiday as a single parent. She now carries the weight of being mom and dad all rolled into one. Tears begin to form as I think of my dear friend who will be unable to hug her incarcerated son. I cannot tell you the number of sleepless nights she has lost to grief …


Life is messy. Special days aren’t always special. For many, Mother’s Day is a complex time of reflection. It is a mixture of heartfelt memories and pain filled moments. What matters most is not what we have experienced but what we are yet to encounter. Maybe you need to experience the freedom of forgiving someone who wounded you or was simply never there for you. Trust me, the joy that comes with forgiveness is far better than a tear stained past. Maybe you need to bridge the gap in a distant or strained relationship. The initial step is always the hardest. Be brave. Be bold. Be daring enough to make the first move. Motherhood is not limited to birthrights or DNA. A mother is anyone who helped birth a better you. As you take a trip down memory lane pause and thank the women who supported you, defended you, created space for you and loved you unconditionally. Celebrate them. Love them. Honor them.

Such powerful truth! This is a Mother’s day message I have spoken on before. I can still see the faces of moms in one church I was speaking at who had lost kids to death. And the woman who was barren due to her husband’s cancer. Too often on Mother’s day we forget those women and they sit in our services hurting or feeling ‘not enough.’ But God makes His acceptance all inclusive and loves to show us creative ways bring this balance to our ministry.

“Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

Proverbs 31:31 NIV

Another post that grabbed my heart was from my own daughter, Lauren Nelson. Although she has a son almost three and another who is just eight months old, God told her to go to Haiti. Alone. He was calling her to ‘come away’ with Him. After much struggle and tears to leave her babies, she obeyed. While planning the trip, she decided to surprise the other eleven kids that she has mothered in Haiti. The video of those surprised kids was priceless!

There were other posts that spoke as well. A niece who is a stepmom. A friend rejoicing over reconciled relationships. And the silent posts – those empty spaces where many hid from ‘mom notes’ which would be a reminder of abuse or neglect.

Yes. May has become a month for moms. But let’s not forget to minister to ALL women and recognize the spiritual moms among us. May our churches and lives be all inclusive when showing gratitude to those who serve among us. Honor the women who have chosen to foster, adopt, or just be that mom chosen by our hearts. And if that is who you are, we honor you as well for taking the step to mom whoever comes in your path.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BxVSXEvHsjH/?igshid=1hddi7089q86b

Treasure the Gift

I still remember the first Christmas spent around my mother-in-law. The joy of celebrating the birth of her Savior was contagious. One thing that stood out to me was the fact that she did not rush to take down the decorations or tree. She savored every aspect of celebrating Christ’s birth and was in no rush to put away it’s representation. She taught me to relish the season longer.

Often the gifts given at Christmas represent sacrifice in one form or another. The hours spent earning money to purchase gifts. The time to shop and wrap. Time to travel. Planning. Cooking. It all represents something we choose to give. We choose to give to others because we want them to know our love for them and to know they are special in our lives. But too often we watch others tear into a package, smile at what is inside, thank the giver, then toss the gift aside to rush to their next wrapped treasure. The sacrifice of the giver is at most a fleeting thought. And the giver is often left wondering why they went to such great efforts.

Are we guilty of the same actions with our heavenly Gift? We enjoy our nativities and Christmas plays. The Carol’s are sung and family surrounds us. But come December 26th we are ready to move on to the next holiday celebration and pack up the meaning of the nativity with each painted figurine and place the box on the shelf. And state that we had a good Christmas.

A good Christmas. What is that really? Hopefully it is the fact of grasping the truth that it is not about trees and lights, presents or candles. It’s about a Gift of love that remains past tossed wrappings and precious memories. It lasts eternal.

Treasure the gift! Let it continue to wrap it’s warmth around you and carry you into this next year. It’s value is eternal.

A Swaddled Gift

“And this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12

Such a familiar passage. And yet it actually speaks a different language. It was a language the shepherds understood. And the angles knew the shepherds could recognize the deeper meaning when they heard of Jesus’ birth that night. The message spoke of things both present and future. And as we so often find in Scripture, there was much more significant meaning to those words than most of us in our modern, western world understand. So let’s break it down.

Location of Christ’s birth was Bethlehem. The hills around Bethlehem were home to thousands of lambs. These were not just any lambs. Hundreds of these lambs were used for the daily and annual sacrifices. With two lambs per day in the span of one year, Bethlehem probably saw the birth of over 770 sacrificial lambs, plus hundreds more for Passover and other feasts. In that day, when someone said, “Bethlehem,” the person hearing this heard, “sacrificial lambs.” Knowing that King David was from Bethlehem, we understand that this would have been the same area he would have raised sheep.

Watching over the flocks in Bethlehem were not just any shepherds. In order for a lamb to be deemed as a sacrificial lamb, the shepherds had to be trained for this holy act. These shepherds were priests who probably had these duties designated to them from their youth. They understood the instructions given in the law of Moses about the qualifications of lambs offered on the altar. And it was their responsibility to daily keep watch over these flocks. During lambing season, these priests took the sheep to this manger which was called Migdal Edar, or “watch tower of the flock.” Micah foretold that the daughter of Zion would see the Messiah come from Migdal Edar. (Micah 4:8) This watch tower was the station where shepherds brought the flocks designated for Temple worship.

Swaddled. Christ was swaddled. But what was so important about swaddling that the angels gave this detail to the shepherds? Again, it was their language. Swaddling was a practice they used for preparing the sacrificial lambs. At birth, two lambs were placed in a double-hewn depression of a limestone rock known as a manger…. in Bethlehem….at the tower. Here they wrapped swaddling cloths around the lambs to prevent them from thrashing around in order to keep them from ‘spot or wrinkle.’ When the angels spoke the words, “swaddling cloths, lying in a manger,” those shepherd priests knew that a baby was just born in the birthplace of sacrificial lambs and was wrapped up as a sign of having no spot or wrinkle – prepared to give His life in sacrifice for all.

In my mind’s eye, I see each strip representing a piece of the entire story. It all tied in that night with His death, His resurrection, our life in Him, and His coming return! How like our God, the very Artistic Creator, to use common, every day imagery to paint a brilliant story that is woven with so much love!

It was all there that night. Both the present and the future. The present events were very real. A woman travailed in pain to bring forth a baby. And a baby was swaddled to become the future sacrifice. It was God’s gift of love given to us that day, wrapped in torn strips of cloth, held tenderly by a young woman who would one day shed tears on a hill of death. This place where shepherds raised lambs, The Shepherd of our souls was born. It was all very present that night. And it is still present today. No matter where we are today, His swaddled gift of love still speaks of future hope. And it is still wrapped in love for all who hear the message and go seek for this gift.

Let’s do that today! Embrace His wrapped up gift of love!

It really is such JOY!

The Scarlet Bow-tied Gift

PSX_20171224_230733I love so much about Christmas.  Even though I realize Christ was probably not born on December 25th, especially since that date originally was a pagan holiday, it still brings me great joy to hear His name proclaimed in the carols being played everywhere.  I enjoy proclaiming, “Happy Birthday, Jesus,” as strangers greet me with a “Merry Christmas!”  And it’s fun to watch their expressions at the non-traditional reply.  I also enjoy some of our own family traditions.

Every year my family knows there will be that gift, or several of them, carefully wrapped by my husband.  He would have put much thought into his every action.  There may be a drawing on the package, or an encouraging note, or even a riddle to be solved. Sometimes we find another wrapped box….. and another…… and another…, until we finally find the true treasure hidden through the cardboard wrapped layers.  But with each of those ‘gifts’, he took thought into every detail of what he wanted accomplished in order to bring great joy to the receiver.

The birth of Jesus is much the same as those layered gifts.  That first true gift of Christ came with a scarlet ribbon.  A scarlet sacrifice.  See, God is into details.  He personally wrapped each story in scripture in such a way for us to find another scarlet-ribbon-tied gift waiting to be unwrapped.  And He gets excited thinking of the joy that we will find in that last unwrapped gift.  The story of Christ’s birth is full of such deeper meanings.  The well known verses tie Luke’s account to the many previous ‘gifts’ given by our Creator.

Looking into some of these layered gifts of Christmas, I have often pondered the gift given by heavenly beings to local shepherds.  After all, the task of caring for sheep was considered as a hard, lowly and dirty job.  So, what was so important about this group to cause heavenly beings to personally tell them about the birth of the Messiah?  Simple.  They understood Hebrew Temple worship.  After all, they were Levitical shepherds.  Priests.  Men who’s duty was raising sacrificial lambs.  Men who recognized the details of the deeper, hidden gifts.

“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.”  Luke 2:8

The region of Bethlehem was home to thousands of lambs.  The Hebrew Torah gave God’s instructions for temple sacrifices which took place every morning and evening.  That would be a total of 730 sacrificial lambs a year, plus tens of thousands more lambs needed for the feast of Passover and other holy days.

“And you, O Midgal Eder, tower of the flock……the former dominion shall come…..”  Micah 4:8

In the northern part of Bethlehem, less than an hour’s journey by foot to Jerusalem’s temple, was the tower known as Migdal Eder, the “watch-tower of the flock.”  This was an area prepared for the raising of these sacrificial lambs.  During lambing season, shepherds would bring their sheep from the fields to the lower level of this tower.  The lower level was the place designated as the ‘birthing rooms’ for the lambs.

“…..you will find the babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  Luke 2:10

What is missing in this well known verse?  Look at it.  There is a detail here for us to find.  Keep digging!  It’s prophetic!  Every detail of the Levitical Priests’ duty was tied to that ultimate Lamb.  Look closely at the verse and see the hidden truth – the angels gave no directions as to where to find this babe!  No, “down the hill, turn left, near the stop sign.”  Just, “you shall find….”  Obviously these shepherd priests knew where to go.

By Levitical order, the lower level of the flock’s watch tower had double-hewn depressions from limestone rock known as “the manger.”   After birthing, the shepherds placed male lambs into the manger and swaddled them in cloths in order to keep them from thrashing around and bringing themselves harm.  These cloths of gauze-like strips which were required in order for a sacrifice to be valid.  They remained swaddled in the manger until they had calmed down enough to be inspected for any spot or blemish.  Those without spot or blemish became sacrificial lambs.

In Hebrew, the word for ‘without spot or blemish’ is tamiym.  It means complete, whole, entire, sound.  This tamiyd was sacrificed the third hour of each morning, the same time as Jesus, Yeshua haMashiach, was sacrificed!  The last wrapped box of the gift was sacrificed in tradition with the daily temple sacrifice.  The birth and death tied into one.   Hidden details.

Do you see this hidden gift?  It’s big!  These shepherds understood.  The angels spoke their language.  And this group of priests were sent to validate my sacrificial Lamb!  His birth was the scarlet ribbon which ties the entire package of His Love together.  The first gift was tied scarlet red and led to the last box, the true gift of our Sacrificial Lamb.  Each detail of the night of His birth has a hidden scarlet bow just waiting for us to receive His gift of sacrificial love.  From the beginning Christ understood that His birth led to His death.  He knew the meanings…..and sanctioned the very act!  He had to be bound.  He had to be hidden in the cleft of the rock.  He had to be inspected by the priests, these Levitical Shepherds, in order to be found spotless.  He had to be birthed in a birthing room near Jerusalem to be set aside as a sacrifice.  It’s in the details.  Neatly tied in red.  This message to the Levitical Bethlehem shepherds proclaimed, “You will find The Spotless Lamb of God swaddled in His protection.”  No doubt they understood the full meaning of these words.  It was in the details.

What about the details of your life?  Like the shepherds, is there a hidden message in the words you are hearing?  Others might see your walk as messy, off track, not the normal outward ‘look’.  But God knows the wrapped boxes that are layered inside.  They, too, are prophetic for your life.  And He has them neatly tied in a bow of His love.  Christ knew His birth was tied by the scarlet bow to His sacrificial death.  And He embraced it!

This year, give Him a gift in return.  Take time to get along with your Yeshua.  He’s calling.  Like Christ, embrace what has been given to you by your Father.   He has a deeper message for you than what others are hearing.  He’s in the details!

And this year, let’s celebrate that special wrapped gift Himself –  Yeshua haMashiach!!  

He’s speaking your language.  Listen!  He’s calling……………….