Christmas for the Lowly

Madison RosserFaith, HolidayLeave a Comment

Christmas. Much like Buddy the Elf, I have very positive feelings about the holiday. I love the glitz and glitter of this season— magic fills the air and our hearts. The fireplace roars while Bing Crosby serenades us with hopes of a white Christmas. Snow piles high on fences, matched by the whipped cream atop mugs of hot cocoa. As the old carol expresses, “Silent night. Holy night. All is calm. All is bright.” Except, judging from my own very small world of past experience, I know that it is neither calm nor bright for many people during the holiday season. The truth is, some homes will wake up Christmas morning to family members wracked by addictions. Refugees will wake up in camps with little hope in their hearts of ever returning to their own hearth-side chairs. Some people will wake up and wish for the day to pass as quickly as possible, aching for loved ones lost. In many countries people will go to work as usual without the slightest notion that much of the world has pressed pause. No western, romanticized notion of Christmas morning will bring any real hope for these circumstances. In fact, for much of … Read More

God’s Friendship

Madison RosserFaithLeave a Comment

Any given day brings me about eight million opportunities to completely lose my mind. I am not what people would call a“chill” person. I like to be in control. You know, have my day go exactly according to my plans. Is that too much to ask? Apparently, it is. Not a day goes by that goes exactly as planned. If only I had learned to loosen my grasp by now. I am so thankful for God’s patience with me and my control issues. I believe God can work with me, at least that’s what He says. Lately, I’ve felt him chiseling away, molding me into a person with open hands, ready to receive what He has for me. (Keep in my mind, only this past Thursday did I break down in tears after a day gone wrong.) My pastor preached a sermon several weeks ago, focusing on Psalm 25. I’ll include some of the highlights, mashed together, below. But seriously, you should read the whole Psalm. Definitely worth your time. 1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. 2 O my God, in you I trust    let me not be put to shame;    let not my … Read More

Nothing Can Separate You from His Love

Madison RosserFaith1 Comment

Do you ever feel like obstacle after obstacle arises when you are trying to accomplish a goal? Maybe your goal is something as big as landing a new job or as “small” as getting dinner on the table before 9 p.m., but for whatever reason, life seems to be working against you. We’ve all been there. Obstacles, however, are so beautifully incapable of thwarting God’s love towards us. His love is relentless, sure, steady, and constant. I was reminded of this truth as I read through the following passage in a Bible study last week. Romans 8: 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it … Read More

Balancing Rest and Rigor

Madison RosserFaithLeave a Comment

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. Colossians 3:23. Balance has never been my thing. Whether it’s a yoga pose or balancing my schedule, I always seem to topple over. At the same time, I love to work hard, to take risks, and to try new things, even if it means exhaustion, and if I choose to commit to something new, I’m all in. Do you see where “balance” gets lost in all of this? These past three weeks of starting school, coaching athletes, preparing for teaching in my classroom and the church, and loving family has left me sleep deprived and a bit stressed. When I committed to some new roles this year, I knew what I was stepping into; however, I have had my moments of doubt as I’ve let morning runs escape me, drank way too much coffee, and seen my husband for fewer moments than I’ve seen the mounds of paper chaotically spread across my classroom. The good news is: I know this season is brief while I adjust to a new schedule and finish out some short (but time-consuming) commitments. I know I am not the only one who … Read More

Be My Vision

Madison RosserFaithLeave a Comment

I am the queen of discontent. Perhaps you can relate. I have so much, but somehow, I always find myself wanting more. More exotic travel. More food and coffee. More clothes. More things. More adventures. More picture perfect moments that fit into a square for the world to see. Apparently this is a struggle of my generation, or perhaps all generations. This summer, I have been thinking about the things I desire and have asked myself, “What in my life promotes and shapes my desires and my vision for my life? Does this vision line up with God’s vision for my life?” The answer stands out rather clearly. Social media most often (not always, of course, especially when people are honest) paints pictures of ease or excitement. While people do use social media as a platform to celebrate the mundane, we can filter (literally) even the mundane moments to make them look magnificent, like there is always something more to be had in life that could be ours if we just took one more vacation, decorated that last corner of our house, or bought that new outfit. We can even spiritualize this prettified world by posting pictures of our peaceful devotional while sipping coffee from … Read More

Lessons in Love from my Mom

Madison RosserMotherhood1 Comment

Mother’s Day. It can be a sensitive day. Many women long to be a mother, but some wait in the desert of infertility wondering when life will come. Others have lost precious little ones. Some mothers are estranged from their children, and some children are disillusioned by the poor example or absence of their mother. Still others, like myself, mourn the always-too-early-loss of the woman who gave them life. I lost my mom when she was forty-four years young, but if she had been ninety-nine, I am sure my world would feel just as empty. Perhaps for you, today is sheer celebration of joy and love, as it should be. Regardless, this day spurs reflection for many. This Mother’s Day has me reflecting on what my own momma taught me in the twenty-two years I had her. My mother was a special woman, quick-tempered, but quicker to love and laugh. She taught me many things about living and loving. Three things stick out to me in particular. Love is in the details. My mom had a knack for making me and others feel special. When I was a child, it was making a favorite meal or hiding a note in … Read More

Unexpected Easter Blessings

Heather GillisFaith, Holiday, Redemption, Trials4 Comments

Have you ever received a blessing from God that was beyond measure than anything you have ever received? Easter in itself is a blessing that I cherish as a day where God gave his only son for us. But there are two Easter blessings that will forever be engraved in my heart. Last Easter, it was our second year living in Alaska. Last Easter was also my husband and I wedding anniversary. The day started out like any other day for me. I got up early intending to go to the sunrise Easter service then come back and all go together as a family. This morning however everyone got up early and somehow someway we all got dressed and made it to the sunrise service at the chapel on base on time. On this particular day it also had been snowing. I had experienced white Christmases before but never a white Easter. Have you ever had one of those amazing moments orchestrated by God? Well this day was one of those moments. As the choir started to sing, they started singing a song about how much Jesus loves us and washes our sins white as snow. It was snowing outside on Easter … Read More

A Call to Adventure

Madison RosserFaith2 Comments

Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  My mom once bought me a green, wide-brimmed hiking hat from Value Village. She gave it to me for a backpacking trip I would go on before the start of my senior year of college. I quickly deemed this hat my “adventure hat.” The summer after I graduated college, I wore it on all sorts of grand adventures, and it has been a faithful companion of mine ever since– floating through the jungles of Borneo, scaling the Great Wall of China, kayaking the coves of Kodiak, and climbing the near and dear mountains that stand guard around my beloved city. My adventure hat, and the accompanying adventures, sometimes surprise me. When I look back at my childhood self, I was shy and often scared, but somewhere along the line of life, God opened wide my heart to his grand adventure for me. I’m not really talking about the adventures listed above either, but rather the … Read More

The Victor’s Crown

Heather GillisFaith, Redemption4 Comments

Four years ago I had the unbelievable opportunity to participate in the 2013 Boston Marathon. It was unimaginable I was there. I looked around at the sea of runners thinking, how did I even get here? I didn’t feel worthy to be there, nor did I feel qualified even though I met the requirements to enter. This race was for elite runners and I wasn’t even close to that category. However, none of that mattered once the gun went off. Everyone started running full speed ahead to achieve the same goal—crossing the finish line. This is where we were put to the test. Were all the early morning training runs and nutritional diet going to pay off to get me to the end? Marathoners are a different breed. Who in their right mind gets up at 4 a.m. and runs 20 miles? I didn’t consider myself a marathoner, just someone who needed to put the pain to the pavement. I was searching for a place to heal and God led me to running. Running is where I spent time with God.  In my training God taught me so much. He showed me my hands and feet weren’t really mine anyway, they … Read More

And All God’s People Said…

Madison RosserFaith, Redemption4 Comments

I love to break out into song. I think it’s in my genes. Growing up, my mom made up a song for everything, and whenever I visit my aunt, uncle, and cousins, singing is a respectable, possibly preferred, way of communicating. I sing frequently to my students, and sometimes they will even sing back. When I picture heaven, I imagine song. Not somber singing. Not our modern praise- and-worship-style singing with the lights dimmed and our eyes closed. I picture a good, old-fashioned, gospel choir belting out their exuberant tune, choir robes a-swaying, hands lifted in jubilation, soulfully singing in beautiful harmonic layers. And the song I imagine is the old traditional gospel chorus of one lyric: “Amen.” Amen. The simple word to end a prayer. I remember being in Sunday School as a child and my teachers ending their prayer with a call to response, simply stated, “And all God’s people said…” Our little hearts would shout a hearty “Amen!” with glee. Amen. It is so. Let it be. Whatever we just prayed. May it be so. As a child, I somehow developed an idea of what “God’s people” looked like. I can tell you my image was pretty straight-laced. … Read More

Clouds of Discouragement

Jewel ZymurgyTrialsLeave a Comment

Work was pretty normal and went by rather quickly as Fridays are concerned. I was on my way to an afternoon meeting with a beautiful friend of mine, looking to share some insight on questions that had to do with learning how to recognize a healthier way to respond and engage in relationship. When I become conscious for the umpteenth time in the last week or so that I had this rather obstinate and in general irritable non-cooperative disposition rising inside of me. Once again I found myself pushing it away thinking that later I needed to look at what in the world that was…that feeling of…well…I think it was discouragement. Trying to will myself to focus instead on the upcoming time with my dear friend, time which has always been bathed in the scriptures. Her insight has and I believe always will, include the beautiful way she weaves the loving word of God into whatever topic we discuss. I look forward to our times together with childlike excitement because I know that God’s Presence saturates that time and in it I will receive a treasure from Him, a gift to unwrap, meant just for me. That time to me … Read More

A Holy Love At The Cross

Heather GillisFaith, TrialsLeave a Comment

I hope you enjoyed the love poem and prayer of God’s agapé love for us from last week. God’s love is a holy love. One that forgives and selflessly gives eternally forevermore. There is never an end or amount of God’s love. But sometimes God’s love doesn’t feel very loving does it? Let me explain. Six years ago my husband and I endured the biggest tragedy parent’s could ever go through—the loss of our son. He was born with an undetected kidney disease that was incompatible with life. He lived only two short weeks on this earth before he went to heaven. When he died I couldn’t believe God didn’t heal our son. We prayed so hard for him to be healed, didn’t God hear our prayers? If God loved us then why didn’t He heal our son? As time went by, I went before God with this very question and His response was “I did heal your son just not in the way you asked me to. He indeed is healed and living a life that is free from disease, pain or sorrow, he is no longer suffering.” Wow, God was right, He answered every single one of my … Read More

Fear and Trust

Jewel ZymurgyFaithLeave a Comment

I have a daughter who is very involved with different activities in school. When she is passionate about something, there is very little that will get in her way of being involved which to me is utterly fantastic. However, as a teenager, there is much she needs to learn about communicating her needs in a clear way. Though I completely understand that in the logical part of my brain…it was a flat out wrestling match for me to stay in control of my fears. My child is in High School and as a result of one of those activities that she loves so much had volunteered as part of her feelings of sheer enjoyment of what she gets to be a part of…sounds great—right? I think it is fantastic. However, her planning and communication for the said event left a bit to be desired. It was in this planning that I had received an unexpected gift, the opportunity to surrender. Truth be told, I want desperately to have every action that I make to be bathed in prayer and every thought to be anointed by the Holy Spirit. Though the reality is that there are so many times when I, … Read More

Grasping vs. Grateful

Madison RosserFaithLeave a Comment

1 Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I am greedy. Not in the traditional sense of the word. I mean, when it comes to possessions, I suppose I struggle against American commercialism with the best of us, but as I often find myself telling my husband in moments of emotional discontent, “I just want it all!” Let me explain by giving you some examples: I want to be disciplined and dedicated and get up every morning to run five miles, but I also want to sleep in and eat donuts for breakfast. I want to go on grand outdoor adventures in our beautiful state, but I also crave days at home where I stay in my PJs and drink copious amounts of coffee and binge watch TV shows and eat pizza for dinner. I want to travel the world, but I want to live down the street from my grandmas. I want to be a stay-at-home mom one day, but I also want to be a full-time teacher. I want it all, and let me tell you, the struggle is REAL. The world is a beautiful place and … Read More

TV Shows and God Moments

Jewel ZymurgyFaithLeave a Comment

The other day my daughter and I watched an older TV show when God threw in something that was unexpected and helped me get out of a negative mental funk that I was struggling with for a bit. I wanted to have a nice quiet night with my girl—watching a show that she enjoyed and sipping on some ice cold homemade limeade…what I was given was exceedingly more as I gained insight into my heart by a loving God that is constantly pursuing me! I don’t know if the reason why that episode struck a chord in my heart was because I was had heard a moving message earlier, if it was because it was the end of a long weekend of incredible insight or if it was because I have been wrestling with some pretty significant core beliefs as of late…but the episode made my heart break and release a torrent of tears that had my daughter thinking that we should probably turn of the show…which I whole heartedly agreed. However, not for any other reason than to share with her what moved my heart in that moment. The truth is that my mind and heart had been swimming … Read More

Choose to Bring Life

Jewel ZymurgyFaith, TrialsLeave a Comment

A tremendous life lesson that I have learned this year is the impact and responsibility that I have in the words that I say. It is and always will be my decision whether or not my words bring life or death. Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” I have been the one who has given way to both death and life. Though for a long time I allowed the sickness of my past and the pain of my hurts to taint the way I spoke to others. I rationalized in my own head that such negative speak was tolerable from me because I have been hurt deeply. A hypocrite, I judged harshly those who would speak to me in the same manner, caustically labeling those who looked just like me. Matthew 15:18 “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.” I knew what it was to hurt others with my words; it was one way that I kept others away. My verbal lashes kept people away from my heart, away from the things that I truly thought … Read More

Giving God Access

Jewel ZymurgyTrialsLeave a Comment

I have shared before how the last few years of my life has been radically different from the majority of the life that I have lived prior. This last week though, God gave me a glimpse into a different plan for me than the one I had (which was to compartmentalize and keep my “following Jesus” life and my life prior to that separate). There was no miraculous booming voice nor did the waters of the Cook Inlet part to show me the way…however, the miracle that happened in my heart may just have been that big…or at least it was to me. Almost the entire time that I have been on this crazy adventure with Jesus, I have been told over and over that I need to forgive those people in my past that had hurt me so deeply; which is perfectly true and in fact biblical. Though…how do you convince someone who has been living in a world of pain and survival that the ones who hurt you the worst are in most need of forgiveness, “not for them, but for you…” The more that I was willing to know and learn and seek who God is…the more … Read More