The Spirit of Truth & Freedom


Little adjustments can make huge changes.  During this Christmas season, I want to challenge and encourage you that a simple re-positioning of the heart can make all the difference in what this season looks like for you. Last year during the Christmas season and even following Christmas I was struggling.  I wrote a very honest blog post about where my heart was and how I was processing my inner turmoil at the time.  Off and on throughout this year, God has continued to work in my heart in preparation for this holiday season.

Whether something we do brings us joy or brings stress and pressure, all depends on the motivation of our hearts.  Something that is supposed to be a beautiful celebration can feel like a prison if our heart motives have been drawn off course.

Whether something we do brings us joy or brings stress and pressure, all depends on the motivation of our hearts. Click To Tweet

My struggle last Christmas was due to a shifting of my heart positioning.  Because I had been drawn off course into a place of measuring up to impossibly high standards we had set for ourselves and focusing on the wrong aspects of giving, Christmas had become a bondage in my life.

Too often, we are bound by the traditions of men and conformity. My experience has taught me that these are easy paths to bondage.  God desires to set us free from every bondage through His Spirit of Truth.

What Jesus Has to Say About Traditions of Man

Matthew 15:6-9 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)

So for the sake of your tradition (the rules handed down by your forefathers), you have set aside the Word of God [depriving it of force and authority and making it of no effect].

You pretenders (hypocrites)! Admirably and truly did Isaiah prophesy of you when he said:

These people draw near Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts hold off and are far away from Me.

Uselessly do they worship Me, for they teach as doctrines the commands of men.

When it comes down to it, Christmas as we know it is a command of men that has come to be taught as a doctrine.  I want to stress that I am not saying traditions of man are wrong.  What I am saying is that a tradition of man is a very different thing than doctrine from God.

I see no place in the Bible where I am told that God requires that I celebrate Christmas.  By the same token, God has not shown me where it is wrong to host celebrations.  In fact, Jesus’s first recorded miracle was at a marriage celebration.

Last year, I began such a beautiful journey where God began to separate the traditions of men from the Word of God and His heart.

The Gift of Hospitality

This past summer while on a mission trip to Odessa, Ukraine, my heavenly father lavished me with love and hospitality through the amazing people I stayed with at House of Hope who acted as the hands and feet of Jesus in my life.  Coming from my childhood of abandonment and poverty, I didn’t realize that there were some areas of my life where God still wanted to do a deeper healing work.

We arrived in Ukraine after traveling close to 24 hours from Pensacola, FL through Istanbul, Turkey and on to Ukraine.  I was more tired and anxious than I knew by the time we arrived as weary travelers in a foreign land.  (As I write this I can’t help but think of Joseph and Mary and the weariness they felt as they arrived in Bethlehem as well as their flight into Egypt to protect their son.)   I didn’t know the language.  The culture was very different and I was secretly praying that I wouldn’t somehow do something wrong to offend someone.  I breathed a sigh of relief after we successfully made it through having our passports stamped.

As we wrestled our bags off of the luggage conveyor belt and were maneuvering them across the little airport toward the door, I wasn’t sure where Pastor Vitaley and Irina would be. I was overjoyed when I spotted them right there in the doorway beaming and already reaching their arms out to us in a wide embrace.

A Beautiful Exchange

I was completely unprepared for the wave of emotion that came over me as our baggage was exchanged in one fluid gesture while flowers were thrust into both mine and my daughter’s hands.

Aren’t we all really just weary travelers in a foreign land?

I could feel the physical relief of knowing we had a covering in this foreign place.  We were safe.

All we needed to do was follow them and allow ourselves to be released into the love and safety they were offering us.

When we arrived at the House of Hope we were shown to our room and they put our flowers into vases that had been prepared ahead of time.  As I looked around the room I could see that they had lovingly prepared snacks.  They had asked ahead to see what kinds of food my 14 year old daughter liked and had gone out of the way to have us well stocked on some things they knew she would like. I could see that they were loving us through serving us.

I hadn’t realized how ingrained it was in me to earn my way in the world until God began to deal with my heart throughout the trip.  Time and time again they would serve us and in the serving I was drinking it in.  Part of me wanted to pay in some way, work, carry my weight but I could hear God speaking to me that He wanted me to receive.

There is a big difference between what happens inside of us when we are paying guests versus what happens when we are treated as honored guests.  As they treated us as honored guests, I drank in the unmerited grace like a man drinks in water who has been running for miles in the heat.

God’s love was saturating me through the hospitality of these gentle, kind people in that sweet mission house.  I hadn’t even realized how battle weary I was.

It was a weariness that I had grown so accustomed to that it had become my new normal, but I could feel myself being revitalized there in that place.  

As we talked and ate and poured out our hearts to each other in Holy friendship, precious, gracious women and young men lovingly prepared meals and stood by attentively watching and taking soiled plates and replacing them with new tasty dishes.

They never made me feel like an inconvenience.  

In fact, I could see that serving in this way brought them great joy! They took great pleasure in noticing our likes and taking time to leave little surprises in our room throughout the trip.

This was the kind of overflowing hospitality that makes a person feel celebrated.

Hospitality breaks down walls.  In a society where we’re taught to earn our way in this world, we don’t know what to do with this kind of unmerited grace.  I could feel little girl places within me thirstily drinking it in and could feel a spiritual strength entering me.  As I received the love, I found that I now had love to pour out.  This is what happens when we drink from the fountain of God’s love poured out by others.

Hospitality breaks down walls. Click To Tweet

I came back from that trip changed.  God had done a deep work within me and taught me much.  My eyes had been opened and my heart shifted.

We can’t give what we are deficient in ourselves and we can’t meet our own need.  Last Christmas I was running on empty and couldn’t give what I was missing myself, but this year I’m overflowing.  I want to be a place of love and safety to others just as I have found that place through the beautiful people from House of Hope.

I desire to offer myself as a gift this Christmas season to make others feel celebrated.  The stress and pressure to measure up to expectation has been replaced by an overwhelming love for my family and those around me, including strangers!  Anxiety about giving the perfect gift has been replaced by the enjoyment of Christmas preparations as an expression of love to those around me.  I realized that it’s not what I give whether in deed or tangible material possession; it’s the spirit in which I give it.  

As I continued to think back on last Christmas and question God coming into this holiday season, He spoke something so sweet to me that it stopped me in my tracks and brought total peace and clarity.  This is what He said:

“There is nothing wrong with having celebrations.  I have celebrations in Heaven and one day we will all celebrate together.”

It’s OK to celebrate my family and give good gifts to my children.  It’s even OK to lavish them with gifts as God often does for us, His children.  The important thing to focus on is that we must let whatever we do for others flow from a place of freedom and an expression of love.  We need to understand what this holiday is really about for us and our family, walking that out in peace and confidence.  

God sent Jesus as a gift to the world because He loves us that much.  He gave what was important to Him to show us how important we are to Him.  Perhaps we can view Christmas in the same light.  What if we focused on using this holiday to intentionally go out of our way to show the world around us how much we love them?

This year our family has decorated two beautiful trees covered in ornaments, lovingly acquired through the years.  As we have decorated them I have taken the time to just saver the moments of connection with my family.  I’ve stopped to discuss memories of certain ornaments picked up on our family trips together as well as ornaments that we’ve bought each other that reflect things about each other that we choose to celebrate.

We have a good Father, and He cares about the little things in our lives.  He knows our little boy and little girl places that want to feel celebrated, to feel like someone is showering us with hospitality that doesn’t have to be earned or paid for.  As we give presents to friends and family  this year taking time to break bread with one another, let’s set aside the worry of getting them the perfect gift and the worry of measuring up to what those around us are doing. Instead, let’s focus on the freedom of celebrating those around us and looking for ways to express the love of the Father in whatever way we can.  In a few years, few people will specifically remember what was given and by whom at Christmas.  What they will remember is how we made them feel.  Let’s do what we can to simply make them feel loved and celebrated.

Our Prayer


Father God, help us to let go of any pressure to perform this Christmas and instead, help us focus on the opportunities this holiday season is going to offer us to express your love to those around us.  Give us the power to not allow this season or the things we acquire to become idols or sources of bondage in our lives. Show us how we can be the gift of love and presence to those You have called us to serve in whatever way we can from a place of true freedom of heart.  May our goal be to bring your Kingdom to the earth and be ambassadors of the peace and freedom Jesus died to give us.

House of Hope


If you are looking for an opportunity to bless a ministry this Christmas, please consider Covenant Church of World Ministries House of Hope. House of Hope is a temporary stay transitional home for young people 14 years and older who have nowhere to go after being released from orphanages.

House of Hope offers these youth a safe home, where:

  • Orphaned children and youth receive care they were forced to grow up without.
  • Loving Pastors provide mentoring and spiritual guidance.
  • Volunteers and missionaries help kids learn useful skills and feel cherished.

I encourage you to visit their website at www.orphansinukraine.org/i-want-to-help to learn more.

Scriptures for Meditation


~ Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 

~ John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

~ Hosea 2:8

She has not acknowledged that I was the one
    who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil,
who lavished on her the silver and gold—
    which they used for Baal.

~ Romans 12:4-8

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

~ James 1:17

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

~ Romans 7:6

But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

~ 1 Peter 4:10

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.