Monday, 30 November 2015

Elizabeth: The Other Woman in the Christmas Story

Today, you can find me writing over at Testimony Magazine:

Elizabeth: The Other Woman in the Christmas Story

"She shares my middle name, but not much else. She was born into a family of priests and was the wife of one. Most of her life’s years were behind her, though she had no child to take care of her and her aging husband Zechariah. The first thing we know after being introduced to her is that she is righteous in the sight of God, a blameless keeper of all the commands and requirements of the Lord. So we know it wasn’t her sin that kept her barren, though that’s what most of the market women said.
What a shock to have your husband come home from work unable to speak, and then a few weeks later to realize that the impossible had happened—pregnancy! But Elizabeth did not question, as Zechariah had, paying for his doubt with nine months of silence. And she did not laugh, as Sarah had, hiding behind the tent folds. She simply knew he had seen a vision there in the temple. Something, or Someone, had appeared in the clouds of incense, and now there was life bulging within her. Of course she could not help but think of the women of the Torah and the Writings, women whose empty disgrace had been removed by a miracle. But there were few miracles from God in these days. What could be the occasion of such favour?
For five months she kept her pregnancy secret. They were quiet months, anticipating months. Then in her sixth month, when she could no longer hide the life within, she had a visitor."


Sunday, 29 November 2015

Advent 1: Hope Is Enough

Hope says,

It’s ok if you’re tired. If your kitchen is a mess. If you gave all you had and it wasn’t enough. If your plans fell apart. If your kid is having a meltdown. If you’re the one having a meltdown.

Hope asks nothing but a small crack in your heart to be left open, just enough for one candle to peek through.

Hope doesn’t need your best, or your bravest.  Hope shines at rock bottom, and in what’s broken.

Hope is not a general wish for something better. Hope is a candle lit by a promise, held by an everlasting arm. And hope springs eternal because its essence cannot be snuffed by winds of temporality, no matter how they huff.

Hope is a light that illuminates the face of Jesus. And he whispers, “It’s ok. This day, hope is enough.” 


Thursday, 26 November 2015

Abraham's Advent - Sneak Peek!

Just for you . . . a sneak peek of Abraham's Advent!

Advent begins this Sunday! 
To continue the journey with Abraham, purchase the full ebook here for $3.99.
Your purchase will help Preemptive Love spread comfort and joy this season.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The Fear of Longing

We have been walking this road a long time, and have seen a thing or two, oh yes. We weren't born yesterday. We have been through too many reality checkpoints. Hope can be a dangerous thing in this day and age. We manage just fine without it, feet on solid ground.

And so we have come to a smiling, sterile place where we are afraid to long.

Afraid to long?

Yes, that is it. It's not worth the taste of disappointment.

For that has been the result of my thirst. A mouth full of sawdust. So I have learned to take the hunger pangs and paralyze them like so many moths in a spider's web. I have made a web to catch the longing before it takes wing.

Afraid to long?

Yes. I fear where the longing may lead. Out on a limb and into the dark where I have no map. What if it leads to a place where there is no choice but metamorphosis because the ground beneath my feet is no more?

Afraid to long?

Yes, because my discontent may mark me as a stranger. What if my comforts no longer soothe? What if my qualifications no longer serve? What if my riches are no longer palatable? What if my cultural cocoon is no longer habitable? Oh then, I may have to search for another kingdom.

But here's the thing - when the emptiness of a life without longing confronts me in unexpected moments, the despair is too great. I know it will crush me.

Beauty calls, and it is like thunder. A change is coming on the wind.

If you feel hope calling, why not consider a little journey to Bethlehem? 
Abraham's Advent is a four week Advent devotional which follows the footsteps of one who knew what it was like to be a stranger in a strange land. Your copy is available here. 


afternoon prayer :: recalibrate

It's midafternoon.

I pause, savour the smell of chicken roasting and the peaceful (for now) sound of children playing imaginary games. There are still crumbs to sweep and bathrooms to clean, and life never really stops. That's why I need to.

Sometimes prayer is simply standing still. Standing still while the do-lists keep screaming from where they are buried under coffee cups and kids crafts and acknowledging I can't make it all happen. I can't control it all.

But the worth of this day doesn't rest on such things, and my worth is not made by wrestling these 24 hours into a Pinterest-worthy picture.

There's one image I really need to see when I'm in the thick of it. It's the one thing that does not move with the ticking of the clock and the checking of the boxes. It is always there, at the center of it all, and I can find it when I simply stand still. No, life never stops, but it actually revolves around Him, and when I am close I can feel it. Gravity.

His gravity gathers me in, along with the fragments of my day. There in the stillness I am renewed. I am re-calibrated.

The day is about to go on, and I with it, but the gravity remains, and it helps me let go of what I can't control and keeps me from flying off the handle. I remember He makes the day and I will rejoice and be glad in it.


And the winner is . . .

Jody Ward! 

Congratulations Jody, you have won a copy of Preemptive Love: Pursuing Peace One Heart at a Time! (An email is on its way to you.) 

Thank you so much to all who entered and were interested in finding out more about Preemptive Love. (The winner was randomly chosen.) If you are curious as to what this organization is all about, head over to their website and get an overview. The book is also available there with your donation!

Proceeds of my ebook Abraham's Advent are going to this heart-changing organization in Iraq. Thank you for partnering with peace this Advent. 


Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Don't Wait for January 1st: Begin Again Right Where You Are

{This is the second post in a series of what Advent is all about. Read Part 1 here.}

Advent is actually the Christian “new year.” It is the beginning, and a rather strange one at that.

It begins without fanfare, fireworks and flash. And we begin again, not when the spring bursts into new life, or even when the light returns. We begin again, even as the days are darkening. We begin again, when ice is settling over the world.

We begin with a longing.

A longing for the celebration of Christmas, the coming of the Saviour incarnate, and so many hopes fulfilled and feasted.

A longing for the day our Saviour returns, and a longing made all the stronger for the dangers, toils and snares we are now enduring.

We begin with tension.

The tension of a Christ who has come, and a Christ who will come, a kingdom in seed form waiting full flowering. 

The tension of ordinary life and all the things we cannot control, all the while acknowledging there is One who holds all things together by “one little word.”

We begin with hunger.

The hunger for beauteous light to break, for life to come, for the warmth of a God-kindled fire.

The hunger that takes patience as a journey-mate and trusts in One who is beyond time.

Traditionally, Advent was often a time of fasting. Not a revolving door of pre-Christmas parties, but a time to abstain in order to locate and live with the hunger so necessary to our right position before our Creator.


Why begin here of all places in the life of Christ (for that is what the liturgical calendar revolves around each year, that is what gives it its shape), and why begin now of all seasons?

There is an ancient wisdom to this.

How do we begin again? How do we contemplate a new year? How do we truly gain a fresh start, with fresh vision?

By putting ourselves in a place of longing, tension, and hunger. By recognizing our deep and abiding need for God. By acknowledging that we can never shape the coming year in the strength of our own resolutions, but that we must first allow the true shape of our darkness and need to emerge. Only then will we welcome the true Light when it comes. Only then will our souls weep for relief and joy at his appearing. We cannot begin without Him. And we cannot have Him unless we have known the want of Him.

This wisdom gives us a humble beginning.

This wisdom whispers – Make yourself small. Make your need known. Make space for searching.

And the promise of Advent? He will find you.

We begin with the promise that there can always be a new beginning, even when darkness is on the rise. Even when we can’t yet see the full light of day. Even without parties, even without “happy.” You don’t need a “happy” to have a new year.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, joy will come, unspeakable and full of glory.

But in the waiting? Yes, begin here. 
In the dull of winter gloom? Yes, begin here. 
In the hurting hunger? Yes, begin here.

For the promise of Advent is no empty sentiment. He is coming, and when, yes when He does, you will flat out run, and His embrace will be just the shape of all your expectations and the sweetest filling of all that was empty.

So don’t be afraid, though the days may yet be darkening. Your beginning is now.

If you would like to walk through this Advent with one who was no stranger to longing, might I suggest the Advent devotional Abraham's Advent: A Stranger's Journey to Bethlehem and Beyond? It is my hope that this little book will help keep things in focus in the weeks leading up to Christmas. 


Monday, 23 November 2015

How to Really Focus this Advent

Are things getting blurry out there yet? Ever want to close your eyes and just make it all go away?

Advent is a beginning. Right in the middle of the hustle and bustle, it offers an invitation to see the world afresh. It’s the beginning of the year, according to the Church’s calendar. Though connected to Christmas, it has its own focus as a season.

{The season of Advent lasts approximately four weeks, beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas and continuing until Christmas Eve and the celebration of Christmas. The Church calendar, or liturgical year, is a way to pattern our days and months according to the greatest revelation of God to humanity – the life and death of Jesus Christ. Personally I love to live within its rhythm, which shapes my year according to major events of Scripture and not only cultural celebrations.}

And don’t we all need a little perspective this time of year? Advent offers us just that opportunity.

Historically, Advent has a double focus. The word itself means “coming.” The first focus of Advent is the coming of Christ two thousand years ago. Rather than jump right into feasting, many Advent observers have actually used it as a time of fasting. With so many holiday goodies around, why would anyone want to deny themselves the pleasure of treats? The intent behind fasting is to prepare your heart to fully receive the joy of Christmas. It is to taste the hunger and hope of humanity as they waited for the Messiah to appear. It is to insert oneself back in time, to relive the stories of the Old Testament, to wait right along with those who faith kept them looking ahead to the fulfillment of God’s promises. It is to join our voices with countless others and sing, “O come, o come, Emmanuel.” You don't have to fast to do that. But you can readjust your focus and purpose to live awhile with the ancient longing. 

It is this focus which makes the celebration of Christmas all the sweeter when it arrives. It is this focus that allows us to keep the heart of Christmas in central view. It is this focus which reminds us that the Incarnation really has changed everything.

The second focus of Advent might seem a bit strange at first glance. But this is also the time of year when the Church has looked ahead to the second coming of Christ. There are promises yet to be fulfilled. There are hopes yet to be realized. There are circumstances all around which make us cry out for salvation’s completion. We are not so different from those Old Testament saints, after all. The earth groans for redemption, and our heavy hearts groan along with it, whispering, “Come, Lord Jesus.” And yet our whispers are not without comfort and joy. For the same God who stooped to take on our flesh will one day come to reign over all. He will put things to right. He will put us to right. This is the promise we now hold, along with a reassurance from our Saviour that brings light to dark days – “Fear not!”

It is this focus that reminds us we are still pilgrims on a journey. It is this focus which lifts our heads in hope in times of fear and doubt. It is this focus which allows us to see there is more to come, and that Christmas may be a beautiful word, but it is not the last word.

Advent says to us, “You want to see clearly? Begin here. Begin by looking doubly at Christ.”

Have you ever done that experiment where you close one eye and try to complete a task that requires depth perception? We did this in high school. With one eye closed, we had to extend our arm and try to drop a nail (I think it was a nail? Why was it a nail?) into a small styrofoam cup. Without the benefit of both eyes open, we lost what is called “stereoscopic vision.” We had no depth perception. For most of us, the nail went clanging to the floor.

Perhaps more than ever, we need spiritual stereoscopic vision.

When we look doubly at Jesus, we place ourselves right where we ought to be – in the reality between the Incarnation and the Glorious Appearing. We are people who must live between these great poles of history, held up between fulfillment and expectation, in the necessary tension of a kingdom that is both “already” and “not yet.”

We begin by reminding ourselves not only of the origins of our faith in a humble manger, but by reminding ourselves of the end. Not the end of all things, but of this broken world as we know it. We know Jesus Christ will once again reappear and redefine our entire reality. We begin with the knowledge that our Future in Christ is drawing us on, calling us to be conformed to an image that is eternal.

It is only by looking at both “comings” do we see Christ clearly. It is only with both eyes wide open that we gain the perspective needed to walk ahead into a new season, and a new year. This is how we can aim for what is good and not have it all come crashing to the floor. 

This is the vision Advent has to offer. 

If you would like to walk through this Advent with one of the ancients, might I suggest the Advent devotional Abraham's Advent: A Stranger's Journey to Bethlehem and Beyond? It is my hope that this little book will help keep things in focus in the weeks leading up to Christmas. 


Sunday, 22 November 2015

An Advent Invitation

You are invited…

To: A journey of hope, wonder and promise

When: November 29 - December 28, 2015

Where: A Bethlehem campfire

Host: A stranger and sojourner

Bring: Hopes, longings, questions, and whatever faith you can muster

RSVP with your copy of the devotional 


Thursday, 19 November 2015

Knotty prayer: a prayer to anchor the day

Oh my soul - deep breaths. The day wants to sweep you away, but you don't have to be tossed. It's time to anchor.

It's time to go deep in the underlay of what is holding you together. Stop and sink into another reality, where time is not a parade of minutes passing you by, but an opportunity, a "fitting moment" - a moment to be fitted into the shape of Christ, to be knotted into the fabric of His being. A moment, however short, to be with Him and to be His.

Pause. Go deep. Make a knot. 

Anchor yourself to His living word, His sustaining breath. Anchor yourself to His truth, beauty and goodness. Anchor yourself to His will and good pleasure. Anchor yourself to His delight.

Draw the threads close and rest in this sacred knot.

And when you emerge, you will feel the tug. You will not be lost, but founded. You will not be tossed, but held fast.

Oh my soul - you will be steadfast.


Anchoring myself in this Word today:

The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statues of the LORD are trustworthy, 
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure
and altogether righteous.
They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the comb.
By keeping them is your servant warned;
in keeping them is great reward.

Psalm 19:7-11


Wednesday, 18 November 2015

A Giveaway! "Preemptive Love" by Jeremy Courtney

A fundraiser for Preemptive Love Coalition!
Find out more about this project here

So I've been following Preemptive Love for a little while now. (In case you haven't heard, proceeds from my new ebook are going to this awesome bunch of people.) I've familiarized myself with much of what they do through their website and blog. But the founder, Jeremy Courtney, has also written a bestselling book of how the organization came to be.

Preemptive Love: Pursuing Peace One Heart at a Time
By Jeremy Courtney

From the back cover:

"From the front line of the struggle for peace, Jeremy writes a firsthand account of lifesaving and peacemaking in the world's most notorious war-torn country. In the heart of conflict, there is only one kind of love big enough to change a nation: a love that strikes first."

I must confess, I haven't finished it yet, but I'm totally engrossed. Drama, terror, hope and love, it's all there. It's a story worth reading, and a book worth sharing. 

That's why I'm going to give away one copy of Preemptive Love to one of the blog readers! 

If you win, I will ship the book to you, anywhere in Canada or the US. There are 3 ways to enter. Choose one, or choose them all to up your chances. :) You can enter by: 

1. Heading over to The Red Letters Blog on Facebook! While you're there, why not give us a "Like" or spread the word about the Abraham's Advent ebook?
2. Tweeting about the giveaway!
3. Leaving a comment on the blog!

The giveaway is NOW CLOSED.


Abraham's Advent: How It All Began

In case you're wondering what this Abraham's Advent ebook and fundraiser is all about. . . 

I remember when the ISIS crisis came to the forefront of media attention last August with the situation on Mount Sinjar. I felt crushed, helpless, and yet somehow responsibleI wrote about this feeling on my blog, and it seemed to resonate with many. The question remained - what could we do?

I cried, and prayed, and gave a few dollars, all we could manage at the time, to reputable charities helping out with emergency aid. And then in April, I cried again while reading Ann Voskamp’s blog. I clicked through the links at the end of her post, “Love in the Time of ISIS,” and that’s when I found Preemptive Love. The heart of Iraq called my name, and I knew, here was something

My husband and I made a donation. I asked for a Preemptive Love t-shirt for my birthday. And since then I’ve been following what they’ve been up to, loving and sharing the difference they’ve been making in the Middle East.

Preemptive Love provides heart surgery for hundreds of desperate Iraqi children. They provide emergency aid to those fleeing violence. They also help ISIS survivors return to their homes and rebuild their lives. They are love's "boots on the ground" in some of the darkest and most dangerous places in the Middle East. 

I’ve wanted to do more. I saw people fundraising on their own, many selling their own crafts and artwork. Well, I am not a crafty person, but I do love to craft words. And then an idea began to form for my own fundraiser. That's where Abrahams' Advent comes in. 

Abraham's Advent is a devotional that was birthed several years ago. It came out of a time when I was a new wife in a new town, studying the life of Abraham. There was something about the narrative that sucked me in. I felt like I was following in his footsteps, and as I walked with him through the pages of Scripture, the story came alive. I could smell the dust. I could feel the heat. My heart beat right along with his in moments of both elation and fear. I lived the promises with him. Christmas was coming, my first Christmas away from family. I was fairly new to the whole concept of Advent. Somehow, in a way I can't even remember now, I lived through that Advent with Abraham. I hoped along with him, each day jotting down thoughts and questions. And then I imagined what it would be like if past, present and future converged in Bethlehem on that oh so holy night. Somehow it all came together and formed itself. 

Over the years I shared it with friends and family and a few in our church. I wrote it for me, but Abraham seemed to resonate with some of them too. And then at the end of this summer, as my sister-in-law Megan and I were talking during one of her visits, the idea hit. Why not turn Abraham's Advent into an ebook, and use it as as a fundraiser for Preemptive Love? Yes! Here was a small something I could do.

I got in touch with a graphic designer friend of mine, Kathy Jimenez, and she generously donated some of her skills to the project. With her help (and my husband's!) it is now a beautiful ebook, with proceeds going toward Preemptive Love. This is my offering.

I still cry sometimes. When I think about Iraq, about where Syrian children sleep, about Paris, about this whole hurting world. But there is hope, thanks in large part to the work organizations like Preemptive Love is doing. I believe there is always hope in Jesus, and through the people who dare to be His hands and feet in some of the riskiest places

So this Advent, consider spreading some "preemptive love."Consider sharing in this peacemaking movement. Consider taking a walk with Abraham, himself a stranger in a foreign land, and learn what it means to live within the hope and promise of God. Prepare your heart to welcome Jesus.

Abrahams' Advent: A Stranger's Journey to Bethlehem and Beyond is available now for $3.99 (CDN). Click here to purchase and download in either EPUB or PDF format. 

Living in hope,

~ Lindsey

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Midnight prayer: Where do Syrian children sleep?

Oh God,

Where do Syrian children sleep? Only you know each troubled bed. Mine are safe under quilts and treasured blankies, wrapped in the security of home. Mine are sleeping deeply, even as I wrestle with the midnight thoughts and images I can't escape.

Don't let me escape them.
Don't let me forget them.

The world is a broken puzzle, with too many pieces missing. Blown to bits.

What do I do? What do we do?

I don't know the answers to the questions in their eyes, the cries in their sleep, the fear in their forms.

But I do know this...

Jesus, you were a child refugee, fleeing the evil of hell's forces loosed. Where did you sleep, on the run to Egypt? Did you know the terror that sped your parents' steps day after night after day? Would I have recognized you if you slept on my doorstep?

Jesus, you spoke of loving our enemies, and if ever we really needed to figure out what on this blasted earth you meant, now is the time. I do know love means risk. Love means the almost sure possibility of having to utter those heavy words, "Father, forgive them."

Jesus, you knew the bloodiest torture of your time. You know the nightmares they relive. You weep over their crumbled cities. You weep over those who reject your way, and send these children into the cold night. You weep over hearts harder than the trampled ground. You weep for each child who has lost a home, each home that has lost a child.

Jesus, you pronounced blessing on the peacemakers. How can anyone make peace with trembling hands, and when the recipe seems forgotten? Yet you spit into the dust and made a balm for healing. You give eyes to see. You took a severed ear and restored it to your enemy. You give ears to hear. You took everything hell had to throw at you, and you made salvation.

I am no miracle worker.

But I know the only way to take any step, to make any peace, to break any curse, is to stay close to you. To embrace you as the child, alone and frightened. To look into their eyes and pray, and really mean it - give me eyes to see. Give me ears to hear. Don't let me escape them. 

My children stir. They murmur and roll over. I will tiptoe close and tuck the covers around them, murmuring my own prayers of gratitude and blessing. And as I place my hands on them, I will pray for the others.

Yes, prayer may only be a beginning. But as we go forward, we can never leave it behind. For it is in prayer that we step close to Jesus and let him cross our borders.

Come, Lord Jesus.

{One small step I am taking - Please consider purchasing a copy of my Advent devotional, Abraham's Advent. Proceeds from the ebook will go to Preemptive Love Coalition, an organization that is making peace and healing hearts in Iraq and the Middle East.}


Monday, 16 November 2015

It's here!!

Abraham's Advent: A Stranger's Journey to Bethlehem and Beyond is now available as an ebook!

CLICK HERE to read more about this project and get your copy!

Thursday, 12 November 2015

The east window: how we begin

Enough! Too long! Child get the cloth! Quick to the east window, and wipe down the glass!

Enough! Enough dust and smudges and squashed fly remains, enough squinting through streaks to see the sun rise.

Wipe it all, inside and out. Let not this day's light be filtered by yesterday's dirt. A clear vision, a clean view - this is how we begin. Not a moment to lose, the day is almost crowning. Scrub and shine, right to every corner and across the sill. A final flourish of the cloth - now look.

Here is morning, and the world wiped new. Step back, the sun is here, and you shall see again.

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