Thursday, December 24, 2015

12th Truth of Christmas- Emmanuel, God With Us

Here we are, ladies and gentlemen, the 12th and final truth that I am focusing on this Christmas. In my opinion, this truth is the epitome of Christmas, the one truth that stands out to me the most during this season.
"Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel," which is translated, "God with us." (Matthew 1:23)
Emmanuel- God with us.

This is the very greatest truth of Christmas. This is also one of the most amazing truths of Christianity. We worship the True and Living God, Who sent His Only Son down to earth to live among us.

Down here on earth, among the filth, the suffering, and the sin, Jesus willingly came down to be a part of our world. He was born like any human baby; he ate, slept, and grew as a human. He felt pain, sorrow, and joy. He experienced physical life as one of us.

God could have just swept in with a mighty force and solved everything wrong in our broken world. But He didn't; instead, He chose to come and be among us. To feel what we feel, to see what we see. He took the time to understand us, and then He gave us a way to be rescued.

God is a relational God. He created human beings in His Image so that we might have fellowship with Him. In the Garden of Eden, God walked with Adam and Eve as their Friend. When sin entered into the world, that relationship and connection was broken. Jesus was the link that renewed that chain of connection.

I find it incredibly beautiful that God chose to reestablish relationship with mankind by being among us first, living as we do. The greatest way to earn someone's trust and friendship is to live life alongside them. To feel what they feel, to see what they see.

Did you read that story that was recently in the news about the barber and the little boy with autism? An autistic little boy did not want to get his hair cut, and the barber had already tried several times unsuccessfully to cut the child's hair. Finally, the barber decided to get down on the floor with the boy, who seemed more comfortable hanging out on the ground while playing with his father's phone. The barber got down on the boy's level, and cut his hair.

This story is a wonderful analogy of what God did for us. He didn't try to force His relationship on us, even though we desperately needed it, just like that little boy needed a haircut. Instead, God got down on our level and entered into our world.

I don't know about you, but I have a much easier time having faith and trust in a God Who understands where I am coming from. It is so encouraging to go through life and my faith knowing that Jesus has also felt everything that I experience, both the good and the bad.

The knowledge that God went to such lengths just to have a relationship with me thrills me to the core of my being. It fills me with joy to accept that gift of offered relationship and eternal life. God has proven His desire for relationship, and I count it a privilege to be called His friend.

God is so loving,  and He is so real. He knows us intimately. He knows our both our spiritual and our physical needs. He understands our frailty, and our fear. Whatever you are going through in your life, be it good, bad, or a bit of both, God understands.

This season we celebrate Emmanuel, who is God with us.

Thank you for joining me on this journey through 12 Truths of Christmas. This season, I pray that we may all choose joy. Let us embrace our peace on earth, and have goodwill towards men. I encourage you to be a Christmas light this year, lighting up our dark world. May we look for and appreciate the gifts in disguise. May we all look for the star.

Despite the craziness of this life, let us rest in the knowledge that we are right on time. Despite all the places where we feel inadequate, let us be ready for a Savior. I pray that we may discover the beauty in the stable. I pray that we would embrace the journey, and the surprises that come along the way. Let us celebrate the life that we have been given.

Merry Christmas, dear ones, may this season bring you light and life. Peace be with you in the name of Jesus our Redeemer, Amen.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

11th Truth of Christmas- Life is Worth Celebrating

Life is such a gift.

Life is such a wonderful, precious gift that we often take for granted. We are so blessed here in the United States. Generations of our citizens have grown up with little fear or doubt that they will be able to grow up and live out their days as they see fit.

When I was younger, my family sponsored a little girl in Indonesia. Her letters always gave us such a unique look into her culture and worldview. However, there was one letter that really stood out to me. She was telling us of her future plans and hopes, but the wording she used was what struck me in my heart.

She said, "if I grow up, I want to become..." 

If? If I grow up? There was even a question in her mind as to whether or not she would be able to grow up to adulthood and have a future. Despite my young age, I was incredibly impacted by this statement. That precious child halfway across the world didn't know whether or not she would live long enough to grow up, something that I took for granted every day. That letter awakened me to the truth that life is so precious, and it should never be taken for granted.

Right now I rather feel like my world is going crazy with death. I see it everywhere on the news-"Another Cop shot", "Terrorists kill hundreds in Lebanon and Paris", "So and so diagnosed with terminal cancer". Our own culture seems to be obsessed with death and darkness, idolizing it in a way that makes me sick. Take one quick look at the titles of many current TV shows, and you'll want to vomit at how death is glorified.

Now that I am an adult, I find myself asking some pretty scary questions. "What would I do if a crazy person starts shooting up the mall when I'm out shopping with a friend? What if I get on an airplane that is shot out of the sky? What if I get diagnosed with a terminal illness?"

As it is with any period in history, it is a scary time to be alive. But should that stop me from celebrating the life that I have been given?

The awesome beauty of life goes even deeper than this world. As a Christian, I have received the gift of eternal life, life after death. Death does not have a hold over me, it does not get the final word. I have this gift, because God sent Life down to us in the form of His Son, Jesus the Messiah.

Death came as a result of sin. After Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, living creatures began to die. Life was no longer unending, it was on a timeline in which Death would have the final word. But God intervened, because God is Life, and all true life is of Him.

God made a bridge over Death that brought us back to Him, the Giver of Life. That bridge was Jesus, who defeated Death at the cross and gave us the option of eternal life instead of eternal death.

Jesus did the hardest work, dying on the cross and defeating eternal Death. But we have a part to play as well, one that begins here and now in the physical. We can defeat death here on earth on a daily basis.

How? By celebrating and protecting life.

I was discussing terrorism with my brother the other day. It is the crowning achievement for a terrorist to kill other human beings, and maybe even himself in the process. They find victory in Death, a concept with is directly from the Devil. How do you defeat those terrorists? By preserving life, the lives they would love to take. Every government, soldier, first-responder, and every citizen who take action to preserve life are defeating terrorism and death.

There are other ways to defeat death. Death is not just a sudden change of address from the physical earth to either heaven or hell. Death happens slowly in many subtle ways throughout our lives. Hopes die, marriages die, joy dies. When something beautiful and God-sanctioned dies, it is a sad day. Living in the truth of the life that we have been given in Christ can defeat Death on a daily basis. And, the hope is, that when others look at us they will ask, "Where does your hope come from?" By living our lives in the victory that Jesus has provided, we can point others towards the Savior and eternal life.

Christmas is about bringing life; it began with the earthly life of Jesus, which in turn brought eternal life to mankind. This is a season for life.

I pray that we all may embrace the beauty that is life, both physical and spiritual. I pray that we may protect life since it is of God. I pray that we may fight for life in our day by day journey on this planet. And I look forward to the day when we the Church are all in heaven together and receive the Crown of Life.

This Christmas, let us celebrate life.


Catch up on the rest of the Twelve Truths of Christmas - Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, and Day 10. Join me tomorrow for the final truth - Emmanuel, God With Us

You can find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

10th Truth of Christmas- Caught By Surprise

"Mary, get ready; you're gonna get pregnant with the Son of God....before you get married."

"Pardon me, sir, my wife needs somewhere to have her baby, could we maybe borrow your stable?"

"Hello stinky Shepherds, feel like meeting a King tonight?"

The first Christmas was full of surprises. No one actually experiencing it had seen dozens of Nativity plays and movies. It was the first day on set, and no one had read the script. For all of those participating in the first Christmas, they probably felt like they were playing a game of dodge ball with Providence.

I wonder how many times Mary and Joseph threw their hands up in the air and said, "What else could go wrong?" In the moment, without the bigger picture to look at, Mary and hubby probably thought that a lot of things went wrong on that trip. It's possible they even thought the whole stable birth was a mistake.

Life on earth is full of curve balls and surprises. We can't see the future beyond what bits and pieces God chooses to reveal to us. Many things happen unexpectedly and throw us for a loop. "What on earth! Where did this come from? Why now God? Why?"

But there a very important detail that we often forget....

....God is all-knowing. He knows all things that have happened, that are happening, and that have yet to happen.
Pause for a moment and consider this; the Author of our Destiny already knows EVERYTHING that will happen in our lives. There are no surprises to God, He knows every detail that will happen in every moment of your life.

It is scary not knowing what is ahead, I get that, and God gets that. He doesn't judge us for freaking out when something unexpected comes our way. But it is good to remember that the God of the Universe has control over our lives, and He has all of the answers.

Mary probably cried when she realized she would be having her baby in a stable. That situation had to be so terrifying for her. God didn't judge her for feeling that way, even though He knew all things would be well. Instead, He gave her the strength to face the "curve ball" that she was thrown in that moment. And later on, I'm sure the experience made for a dramatic birthing story around the village well.

Getting thrown for a loop is no fun, it's terrifying. It's okay to be scared, and it's okay to cry out to God. He knows our hearts, and He has compassion for our fears. And knowing all of this, He will provide us with what we need in that moment or season of fear. He will give us the grace to carry through whatever surprise comes our way.

Everything that happens in our lives is for a reason, there are no coincidences. God has already written your story, there are no plot twists to Him. He will take care of you, both in the moment, and in the grand scheme of your life.

Have you recently been thrown for a loop? Did something in your life take you by surprise? You are not alone. This Christmas, I encourage all of us to look at the first Christmas as an example of God's grace, provision, and foresight. He will take care of us.

Catch up on the other 9 Truths of Christmas with Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, and Day 9.

You can find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, December 21, 2015

9th Truth of Christmas- The Journey Matters

Historically, travel has been one of the hardest things for humans to accomplish. It is only within the last few hundred years that any major advances in transportation have been made. We can now be on the other side of the world in a matter of hours, a journey that would have taken months of misery in previous days.

Funny, and we still complain about long car rides with air conditioning or automatic heat. We still fuss at crowded airports and busy subways. I'm sure if we brought someone from the past to our world they would experience our modern travel with wide eyes and an open mouth.

Regardless of whether you travel on the back of a donkey, or in a jet, there is a desire to arrive at the destination as soon as possible. We have an expectation that our destination is more important and satisfying than the journey to get there.

Something that God has been teaching me extensively over the last several years is this....

the journey matters.

We don't hop from point A to point B on the map instantaneously. No, there is a road in between the points, one that we must travel and experience. In fact, when you look at the grand scheme of life, most of your life is spent on the journeys rather than the destinations. Our entire life on this planet is our journey towards our final destination, heaven. To believe that the destination is all that matters would discount the importance of our time spent here, on our journey.

Journeys are the time we spend getting from one place to another. There are short journeys, such as from when you begin learning to read until the time you have mastered it. And then there are much longer journeys that span years, decades, and lives. The journey of becoming more like Christ is one you begin at salvation, and continue until the day you die.

It is during the journey that God teaches us, molds us, and helps us grow. We meet people on our journey who have an impact on who we are, and who we become. We experience pain, joy, and hardship along the way, and those things either make us stronger, or break us down. Sometimes they do both.

When I begin a journey, I am usually feeling a mixture of excitement and dread. Excitement, because I am on the road to a new destination, and dread, because I know how hard the road ahead will be. About midway through the journey, I find out just how hard the road is, and I begin to beg God to let me be done as soon as possible. By the time I am almost done, I feel like I am dead on the floor; it is only by the grace of God that I keep going.

But when I am done, and I look back over the journey that God brought me on, I think, "Wowzers, that was intense. I'm so glad that is done."

And the way I know that the journey was worth it, is when I ask myself if I would trade that season for something easier. My answer is no, I wouldn't trade it for anything, because I can see how far God has brought me.

Mary's journey to Bethlehem was one of great hardship. The poor woman had to ride on the back of a bony donkey while being pregnant. She was cold, thirsty, hungry, tired, and in pain. Joseph had to walk that journey in sandals! They faced crowded roads, crowded towns, bad weather, and bad people. Their end destination? A stable for what was little better than a side-of-the-highway birth.

The journey had to be terrible, but in the end, I bet Mary was okay with the results. She was right where she was supposed to be. All of the prophesies regarding Jesus's birth had been fulfilled. Shepherds had greeted the her son with open hearts and tears of joy. Not to mention that she had given birth to the Son of God in stable after traveling across the country, talk about a tiger mama!

Jesus could not have been born in Mary's home village, He had to be born in Bethlehem; the shepherds surrounding Bethlehem, they were the ones chosen to meet the Messiah first. Who knows what else happened on that journey, who knows what people Mary and Joseph came in contact with,. Who knows what effect that journey had on others who were on their own journeys. Only God knows the answers to all of those questions.

Destinations do matter, they are incredibly important. But without the journey to get there, we would be far poorer as people.

This Christmas, embrace the journey that God has you on right now. Even if it is hard and messy. There is a purpose in our journeys, and when we finally arrive at our destination, we will thank God for the journey that brought us there.


Need more truth this Christmas? I have 8 more days worth to share with you, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, and Day 8.

I would love to connect with you, you can find me on Facebook or Twitter! You can also comment or leave me a message here on the blog. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

8th Truth of Christmas- Beauty in the Stable

There have been many depictions of the stable scene where Jesus was born. Somehow, this scene has been romanticized until it looks utterly charming. Images of clean, glowing hay, soft starlight coming in through the windows, and animals with long eyelashes gazing at the baby seem to be the typical look. The scenes are so beautiful they almost put a little lump in your throat.

Such scenes look lovely on a Christmas card, but they are far rosier and more idealistic than the actual event was. In real life, Mary was probably screaming at the top of her lungs surrounded by stinky animals and musty hay. Joseph had to have been scared out of his wits, but still trying to support his wife despite their uncomfortable surroundings. It could have taken hours of agonizing pain for Mary to get that baby out. Hours of pain, tears, and sweat. The animals were likely annoyed at this two-legged mother who had invaded their space and then proceeded to make loud and starling noises.

And then, finally! Baby Jesus emerges, slimy and red, wailing at the sudden exit from Mama's womb which left him bare-bummed in the freezing air.

Birthing experiences are messy no matter where you are. Stables are for animals, who have no regard for human hygiene laws. The whole event was probably about as gross, earthy, and smelly as it gets.

But in the end, it didn't matter. The baby Messiah had arrived, and His presence was so beautiful it eclipsed the mess of the stable, of his parents, and of all of the animals. His beauty overwhelmed and lit up that place, whether it was glowing with soft candlelight, or whether it was cold and dark.

Jesus was the Beauty of the stable.

A lot of people are going are going to have a messy Christmas this year, that is just the reality of life. But in the end, it doesn't matter.

Because the beauty of what we are celebrating is large enough to cover all of our messes, both physical and spiritual.

You may feel like your heart or your home is a stable right now, incredibly messy and the wrong place for a celebration. But there is no need to fear....

....for Beauty has come, and He is big enough for our mess.


Arriving late to the celebration, no problem, catch up on the Twelve Truths of Christmas with Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, and Day 7.

You can find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

7th Truth of Christmas- Ready For A Savior

I love to be prepared. I am the girl who packs her purse with snacks, nail clippers, and a Swiss Army knife. One of these days I hope to add a roll of duct tape in there as well. Yes, it is a goal of mine to make MacGyver proud.

I am the girl who gets on wikipedia and reads up on all possible trivia before going to a movie marathon. I love knowing things ahead of time, being prepared, and feeling ready.

I've grown more relaxed in this arena, but many times, I am the girl who spent a lot of mental energy on her appearance, wanting to look put together all the time.

Being prepared isn't a bad goal in life, so long as it stays in balance. Looking peaceful and put together aren't bad either, after all, our God is a God of order. Knowledge can be power. But my desires have definitely tipped over into unnecessary more than once. If I don't have every detail figured out ahead of time, I am tempted to feel panicked. I want to be on top of everything, the master of every skill, the girl who knows and does it all.

Let me tell you, the reality of life has a great way of knocking down your castles in the air. I have tried to be on top of everything in my life, and believe it or not....

....I have failed miserably.

Somewhere in my heart, I have believed the lie that I can't get through life without knowing what comes next and how to handle it. My pride and self-worth have been tied to my feeling in control and on top of things. Uncertainties are too terrifying, and not knowing what you are doing is a big dent to your ego.

I have prayed before, "God, please don't let such and such thing happen until I am ready for it." And by "ready for it", I meant that I had done all of my homework ahead of time. When the next thing came, I wanted to be the captain of the ship.

Lovingly, God hasn't listened to me when I am being an idiot. Instead, He has sent whatever I need to grow in my life in His timing, and not mine. This has led to me being thrust into many situations and seasons in life that I did not feel ready for, but had to face nonetheless.

It came out okay in the end; however, my pride was removed when I realized that I didn't know what I was doing and that was all right. And then from that new place of humility, I learned and matured. If I had known everything, I would not have room for growth. If God had brought things in my desired timeline, I wouldn't have gotten what I needed when I needed it most.

In our dream reality, I think most of us would look polished and professional. Arriving at every situation with composer and intelligence. We wouldn't be messy, our lives wouldn't be chaotic, and we would have a lot more answers.

Shepherds in ancient Judea spent most of their time out in the wilderness, where their lives were very intermingled with their animals. Bathing was probably about as rare as a blue sheep. They were stinky, very isolated from the world, and obscure to all of the "great" people of that time.

And then, lo and behold, one night an angel shows up to invite them to the Messiah's birthday party!

I would have been tempted to think, "What the heck? I'm not ready to go meet the Messiah! Excuse me Mr. Angelic Being, do I have time to grab a shower and change my tunic? Are you sure this is the address you were looking for?"

At least, I would have been tempted to ask those questions. But apparently the shepherds were wiser than me, for the Bible says that the shepherds went to Bethlehem with haste. As fast as their sandal-ed feet could move, those shepherds hurried to the manger to meet their Savior.

They were messy, they stank, they had likely sinned within the last 24 hours. But when they were invited to be in the presence of their Lord, they did not hesitate. The shepherds knew what a gift they were being given, a once in a life time opportunity that would never come again.

It didn't matter whether or not they looked or felt presentable. It didn't matter that they had no education or permanent address. Their Messiah was waiting and ready, and that was enough for them.

I didn't feel ready for Christmas this year. I didn't feel the energy, the sparkling Christmas "spirit". I found myself wishing that I had more time to be '"ready".

I'm a mess, like the rest of humanity, but I'm not going to let the fact that I feel unprepared stop me from embracing this Christmas. This year, this celebration, this moment is going to happen only once in a lifetime.

And when I begin to feel under-prepared and overwhelmed, what does God tell me?

"Don't worry sweetheart, because I am ready for you, and that's enough."

Embrace the gift of this Christmas, even if your life is crazy and you feel like a mess. It's okay if you don't feel ready for this season, because Jesus is ready for you. And He is enough.


Need some more truth this Christmas? I've got at least 6 days worth to share with you! Catch up with Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6.

You can find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, December 18, 2015

6th Truth of Christmas- I'm Right On Time

For most of my life, I have struggled with feeling like I am about two steps behind everyone else. When my friends were having their summer break, I was still doing school. When other people were eating dinner, I was eating a late lunch. When all my peers were driving, I still hadn't gotten my quota of practice hours in yet.

I know I'm not alone in this. This Christmas season especially has everyone freaking out, running late, feeling like the calendar is looming over their heads with a blinking red light on the 25th.

I have even felt that I must have been born in the wrong time, or that God must have made a mistake when He chose the year for me to start my life. Not that I actually believe this, but there are places in my heart where I feel that I could be more effective if I were older, wiser, etc.

Several years ago I read a book that went more in depth on the life of Christ. There were many neat things that stood out to me, but there was one fact that still continues to amaze me to this day.

Jesus was born at the beginning of the Roman Empire.

Why is this important? The Roman Empire is known for two things (1) its powerful military that allowed it to conquer most of the known world, creating one of the largest empires in history (2) Rome was known for its architectural masterpieces such as paved roads, which connected the empire and revolutionized travel in the ancient world.

Jesus was born at the beginning of the most internationally connected era in ancient history. By the time he was a grown man, Rome had only increased in power. By the time the early Church began, Rome was very strong and very connected, which enabled the spread of the gospel to happen with incredible speed.

Let that sink in for a bit. What if Jesus had been born a few hundred years before? He might not have had to deal with those rude Romans, but practically speaking, the impact of the gospel would have taken longer to go into effect.

What if Jesus had been born a few hundred years later, during the Dark Ages? Growth was nigh stunted in some parts of the world for centuries, due to the chaos and disconnected nature of the Dark Ages. Instability reigned supreme for hundreds of years, and it wasn't until the Renaissance that life and progress really began to happen on a more international scale. If the gospel hadn't already been spread and taken root across the world before that era, who knows what would have happened?

Maybe it is because I am a total history nerd that I find this concept so amazing. But I don't think that is the whole of it. What really amazes me about this fact, is that it shows me yet again that God has a plan. He has a grand timeline of history, He knows all things that were, that are, and that have yet to be.

He knows when to make things happen in the right time for the right outcome.

When I was little, I used to wish that I had been born in the American pioneer days. I was obsessed with cowboys and covered wagons. The idea of crossing vast prairies to begin a new life in the mysterious west was utterly thrilling and romantic to me.

That was a childish daydream. But as time has gone on, I have often wished I was somewhere else than where I currently was, or am at the moment. And then one day, it hit me.

I was born at the beginning of the Internet Empire.

Being a child of the nineties, I am a member of that unique generation who are just old enough to remember the pre-cell phone/email/worldwideweb age; but we are also the generation of children/teens who were growing up when that great divide was crossed. And the world is forever changed because of it.

I live in the most connected time in all of history. Within seconds, I could reach millions of people across the globe in spite of time, distance, language barriers, experience, and different background. None of these factors are major hindrances to me.

What an incredible thing it is to be alive right now. What an incredible opportunity I have to make an impact on the world. One of the greatest fears I have had in my life is that I won't make a difference in the world. But when I stop and think about the few pieces of God's master plan that I have glimpsed, my fears are soothed.

God knows what He is doing. He sent Jesus at the exact right moment in history so that His Church would be born most effectively.

I'm not Jesus, but God has given me a role to play in the timeline of His-Story. Everything, from the year I was born to how long it took me to get my driver's license are all a part of His plan for me.

I'm not running late, and I'm not too early. I am right on time.


Want to read about the previous Truths of Christmas? Catch up on Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, and Day 5.

If you want to learn more about me, check me out on Facebook and Twitter!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

5th Truth of Christmas- Look for the Star

Sometimes, I miss things in plain sight; the bottle of hand lotion, my glass of water, or a book I literally set down ten seconds before. For some reason, my family often misses me sitting out in plain sight! I could be casually sitting in the corner of my bedroom, and someone comes in to do something or other; a few minutes go by, and suddenly, they jump!

"I didn't know you were in here! You scared me!" 

And I was sitting right there.

You can learn a lot about the world just by paying attention. Moss grows thicker on the north side of a tree. Strips of tire on the side of the highway either mean a blow-out, or that a semi came through recently. People sometimes act crazy when they are under stress or uncomfortable.

Those that pay attention to the signs around them seem so much more in tune with life than the ones who are in their own little world. It's hard to miss beauty when you are looking for it, it's hard to skip over people when you are paying attention to their needs

A long time ago, an entire nation was waiting for their Messiah. There had been radio silence on the prophetic frequencies for hundreds of years, and yet, when their Messiah did arrive, the majority didn't even acknowledge Him for who He was.


Because they hadn't been looking for the signs. The Old Testament is riddled with prophecies about Jesus; signs and clues which were written to lead mankind to their Savior. Every single prophecy regarding Jesus came true, but few were paying attention enough to notice.

And now enter the Magi; three wise men from the Far East. They were not Jewish, but rather foreigners from a distant land. And yet, when the Messiah did arrive, they were there to greet him in his early years of childhood. What pieces of information did they have that Jesus's own people had somehow missed?

The answer is simple: the wise men were looking for the star.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him." 2:1-2.
These strangers from the far away land knew what was happening better than Judea's own residents. They had seen the star, they knew whose star it was, and they knew they must journey to come and worship the King.

The Magi were paying attention, they looked for signs and clues around them. When they found a sign, in this case the star, they did their homework. And what did their careful attention lead them to?

It led them to Jesus, the Savior of the world.

I want to be like the Magi, attentive to my world and the things that God has in store for me. I don't want to miss the signs around me, but rather, I want to find them and embrace the blessings and purpose laid out for me.

This year, I encourage us all to be looking for the star.


Missed a few days? Catch up on the Twelve Truths of Christmas, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4.

Want to get to know me better? You can find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

4th Truth of Christmas- Gifts in Disguise

Have you ever tried to wrap a gift that is perfectly shaped to tell the recipient exactly what they are getting? You stare at it a moment, trying to figure out how to disguise the gift. This has become almost an art form at my house, you would not believe the things we have used to disguise presents.

The best part is seeing the look of surprise and delight on someone's face when they open your disguised gift. They think they are getting one thing, but instead, they end up with something entirely different.

Does this sound familiar?

When most Jews in Israel thought of the Messiah, they pictured a strong warrior king who would save them from the grip of Rome. Who in their right mind would have expected the Messiah to come as a fragile newborn? I can almost just see God chuckling to Himself as He took everyone by surprise.

The Greatest Gift that was ever given came in a disguised package.

Can't you just hear the people saying, "But God, what good is a baby going to do? We need a King, a warrior! Why are you sending someone who needs to be fed, changed, and put down for a nap every two hours?"
It would have been hard to comprehend how a baby could solve the problems that the folks of Judea faced in their time.

Have you ever gotten a gift that seemed useless at the time, but then later, after you had used it, it became one of your favorite gifts you ever received?

I can remember being about eight or nine, and I received three books on tape. When I first opened the present, I felt a great sinking of disappointment in my soul. Hooray, some boring looking cassette tapes. But later on, when I started listening to them, I realized what a treasure I had been given. I gained hours upon hours of pleasure from listening to those tapes over and over again. I received much more pleasure from those tapes than I would have from many other items that gave only short term pleasure. That gift also met many needs in my life, ones that I didn't even know I had until I received the provision to meet them.

Gifts in disguise can come two ways. (1) A gift can appear one way, but in truth, it is something else. (2) We can look at a gift through one perspective and not see the value, but when we shift our perspective, the gift suddenly can take on new meaning and purpose.

When travelers passed by Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus, they would never have expected that the answer to their cries for help was wrapped up in swaddling clothes. They might have smiled at the cute little family, but realize they were staring into the face of their Messiah....never!

And then later, when Jesus did reveal Himself, the people couldn't wrap their brains around the fact that He was not there to save them from Rome, but rather, from sin? No! This could not be, sin was not their problem, Rome was!


Wrong. Rome was the short-term problem, while sin was the long-term issue. A few in that time had actually done their homework, and were open and ready to receive Jesus when He came to them, even if his appearance took them by surprise. They were prepared to receive the gift. Others didn't learn of their need until they met Jesus, and then, suddenly, it made sense.

Suppose Jesus had actually come in the package people expected. What if He had come wrapped the way everyone expected? If Jesus had come like a King, would He have gotten through to anyone? Would they have even realized their true need for redemption from sin?

Jesus came in a strange and unexpected way. He forced people to rethink their perspectives and priorities. He forced them to also think about the real issues in their hearts, rather than just the temporary issues in their lives. He rescued people in a way they didn't even know they needed rescuing.

Sometimes I have something given to me in life that I don't understand. For instance, this house my family lives in is a mess. It's ugly, cramped, breaking down, and on and on and on. This house doesn't seem like much of a gift. And yet, this house enabled our family to go through a transition that opened up our lives for so much blessing and growth financially. We moved because of a new job opportunity for my dad which has only grown over time.

When I ask God to help me be more patient, I get put in a lot of situations that make my hair curl. And I go to Him whining saying, "This is not what I asked for; this is not what You were supposed to send."
But then, my perspective changes, I am forced to be uncomfortable and to think about things differently. And then....I learn patience.

There are gifts waiting in disguise all around us,  both during this Christmas season, and for the rest of the year. If you think something in your life is one way, look at it again. You might have missed something.

God is all-knowing and unbelievably creative. He knows our needs better than we know them. He has this all figured out. This Christmas, I want to look for gifts in disguise.

Because the disguised gifts, are often the best gifts of all.


Want to read the other Truths of Christmas? Catch up with 1, 2, and 3.

Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

3rd Truth of Christmas- Light of the World

Christmas lights are one of the best aspects of this season. In a matter of days, our world transforms from winter darkness, to being lit by thousands of tiny pinpoints of light.

Christmas lights turn the ordinary into the enchanting. When I look at Christmas lights, I am filled with a sense of wonder and longing. I feel that I have been give a glimpse of my future home in heaven. I am drawn towards Christmas lights like a bee to sweet nectar.


God uses light to identify Himself. Darkness always represents evil. We are called to be lights in this dark world, "a city on a hill" .

Christmastime is the celebration of when the Light of the World came down to shine among us and light up the darkness of our empty hearts.

Jesus the Messiah was the first Christmas Light.

Christmas lights are very dependent upon each other. If one goes out, they all go out. Jesus is shining brightly, He never goes out. And because of Him, we the Church can all shine brightly. Our light will never die, because our light comes from Him.

This season, I choose to be a Christmas light, sparkling in the darkness.

Will you sparkle too?

Just joining me? Catch up now with Twelve Truths of Christmas, Day 1- Joy, and Day 2- Peace.

Want to connect? You can find me on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, December 14, 2015

2nd Truth of Christmas- Peace on Earth

Hundreds killed at a time in terrorist attacks. Girls kidnapped from their own school by radicals who see women as lesser than men. Bombs that can silence millions of beating hearts in a split second.

Countries divided, households divided, people divided, anger, pain, heartache....

...where is the peace?


It's what so many people seek. For thousands of years, humans have looked in many different directions to try to find peace.

Attempts have been made to create utopia- perfection on earth. Most have failed miserably and ended only after even more suffering and death, all in the name of "peace".

This is the season where "peace on earth, goodwill toward men" is proclaimed more loudly than ever. But one look at the news, and it is tempting to feel like we are as far from that concept as we have ever been.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, an American poet, wrote a famous poem which asked this very question. It was Christmas Day in 1864, the Civil War still raging across America. Longfellow's own son had been wounded in battle. For years, American sons, husbands, fathers, and brothers were wounding and killing each other, their countrymen. If you were ever to feel that peace was no more, I believe that seeing your own people fight against each other would do the trick.

Longfellow puts into words the cry of millions of people.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."
 But, how shall the Right prevail? From where do we find the peace on earth?
"For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulders. And his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
Christmas is the celebration of when the Prince of Peace came down to our violent and heart-wrenching world, and brought peace.

Peace; it does not come from us. It does not come from the things that we do. Peace can only come from Jesus. And He did not stay up in heaven where He was far away and unreachable. The Prince of Peace came down to where we are.

Where is the peace on earth? It is right here--in my heart--in the heart of every Christian on planet Earth. The Prince of Peace came down to be among us, and he still dwells here in the hearts of his people. And with the peace that dwells in our hearts, we may go out and bring "goodwill toward men".

Peace to you all this Christmas season.


Just joining us? Catch up with the 1st Truth of Christmas!

Read the full story of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

Want to connect? You can find me on Twitter and Facebook.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

1st Truth of Christmas- Joy is MINE

I always loved the word "JOY".

I can remember being just a little tyke, in Sunday school. Each week, the teachers would write up a Bible verse in colorful Sharpies, and then post it on the wall in our classroom.

The very first verse we ever posted was about having a joyful heart. I don't remember the exact location, but it was somewhere in Psalms or Proverbs; however, I can remember that the verse was written in red marker with a squiggly line of orange around the border. And in the top right corner, was a great big red heart. I adored that verse, I looked at it every Sunday, feasting my eyes on the giant red heart which screamed "JOY" to me.

When our teachers told us that at the end of the teaching course, each kid could pick out one of the verses to take home, I knew instantly which one would be mine. I watched that Bible verse like a hawk, making sure none of the other kids seemed too interested in claiming it for their own.

Finally, the Sunday came when the verses were being taken off of the wall and distributed. For those kids who didn't have a favorite picked out, random verses were given. But I had made my choice weeks before, and I didn't waste any time, "I want THAT one!" I pointed very firmly at my joy verse. The teachers casually handed it to me, completely unaware of the amount of time and thought I had put into claiming my prize.

I looked down at the precious verse, the big, beautiful, red heart staring up at me from the paper.

Joy was mine!

I have been on the lookout for joy my whole life, searching for the sunshine, the beauty, the laughter.

The deepest joy I have ever felt was the day that I accepted Jesus. I was five years old. Mama told me about Jesus, and about heaven. I can remember how it physically felt, like a fountain, bubbling up from my very soul. I felt light and airy, I was jumping on the couch for joy, SO MUCH JOY!

Even at that age, I could feel the difference. Ever since that day, I have never experienced joy as deep as that. Sometimes, very rarely, I get a hint, a taste, and my appetite increases. I crave joy like I would a delectable dessert.

I know I am not alone in this. Every single human being on planet earth desires to feel joy. We want to laugh, jump, dance, and to cry for joy!

But we live in a fallen world, surrounded by sorrow, suffering, and darkness. Where are we supposed to find the joy?

I have cried out to God many times, "Where is the joy? How do I find it? I feel so dark, I feel like I'm drowning!"

Often, joy feels like a creature that has almost gone extinct.

But has it? Or are we just looking in the wrong place? Or, do I have a wrong expectation of what joy is?

Mary, the mother of Jesus, was just a teenager living in a pretty scary time. Foreigners held her land captive, she was to be married to a man whom she might have only recently met, and, oh yeah, she was pregnant before her wedding night, with the Son of God.

Tack on a journey of over a hundred miles on the back of a bony donkey, all ending in birthing the Son of God surrounded by animals and manure. Can you imagine the fear and the darkness that had to be surrounding her? All of the thoughts and torments swirling around in her head, "What if I fall off of this donkey and my baby gets hurt? What if the Romans stop us on our journey, and Joseph dies protecting me? What if I can't handle being the mother to God's only son? What if God chose the wrong woman?"

It would have been hard to find anything to feel joy about. Even the place she had to birth her baby in is like every pregnant woman's worst nightmare.

She had to choose joy in that moment, despite her fears, despite her uncertainties about the future, Mary had to have chosen joy. In that precious time, cuddling her Savior, Jesus, in her arms, surrounded by hay, sheep, shepherds, and manure; Mary had to choose joy.

To choose joy, is to continually choose to keep your eyes on Jesus.

Joy to the world, the Lord has come...

Joy, joy is often a choice. It is not based upon circumstances, upon good weather, or upon a perfection.

Just like my Bible verse, we must keep our eyes on the joy of Jesus and the Father, not allow anyone or anything to take it from us, and then, claim it loudly!

This Christmas, Joy is MINE!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Twelve Truths of Christmas

I'll admit, a fraction of me feels like just putting my head down and shuffling through Christmas this year.

In my own mind, I'm shouting "Blasphemy!" to myself. I'm usually all about Christmas, by July 7th I'm ready to start putting up the tree.

I'm all about hope, which is what Christmas means to me.

I'm all about sparkly lights.

I'm all about presents.

I'm all about the music, the people, the food, the meaning, the stories, the memories, and on, and on, and on.

I should feel thrilled, even more than usual this year, because this is my first Christmas as a graduated "adult". Yes, to all of those nineteen to twenty-five year old's out there, you know exactly why I put the word adult in quotation marks. At this point, I am assuming that once you reach the heightened age of twenty-six this whole adult thing will begin to make some sense.

I should feel all of that, the joy, the sparkles, the warmth....

....but I don't.

Life has been hard for me and my family for the last couple of years. We have been in a really difficult living situation that just keeps getting more cramped and hard to live in. God has really done a lot of painful work in our hearts over the last few years, digging up things and forcing us to work on them.

The last few years have been really great when it comes to growth, and I wouldn't trade this season for anything. I have matured so much.

But I'm tired, I want to move on, to the next place, literally, I want to get to a different house. Maybe I sound like a whiner, but certain things like AC, a furnace, less mold, and other things seem fairly reasonable to me.

So what does this have to do with Christmas? This: life just feels too messy and hard to fit Christmas into.

I know, that sounds nuts, doesn't it? But it's how I feel. Trying to fit Christmas in around all of the messy chaos of my life sounds so hard. And I know for a fact, I am not the only one who feels this.

Across America, across the world, there are millions of people who live busy, chaotic, and messy lives. And millions of those people celebrate Christmas.

Should we all just put our head down and shuffle through the holidays when we don't feel put together enough to celebrate? Should we just forget about the joy this season, and feel sad about the things that don't feel right? Not that Christmas will ever look like it does on Hallmark Channel, but, I have had more orderly Christmases before.

It's tempting, it may be really lame, but in a sense, it does sound easier to close up rather than trying to engage this celebration.

That is how I feel...

...but that is how I refuse to live.

I REFUSE to allow my Christmas to be taken from me by the troubles of this world and my own heart. I refuse to let joy slip away and be replaced by gray clouds. I refuse to let this season pass in a blur.

This Christmas, I choose to eagerly grab onto truth, life, and joy. This Christmas is precious, and beautiful, and just what I need right at this moment in my life.

I want to share this choice with you, and so, I have decided to write about Twelve Truths of Christmas that I am going to focus on this year. Starting on Sunday the 13th, I will be sharing a single truth each day, something precious that I am focusing on this Christmas season.

Join me. Don't let this precious season pass you by. I know life feels hard, maybe you are depressed, maybe your circumstances are less than ideal. But this is our Christmas, this is our Savior, and this season about our hope and joy!

Merry Christmas! See you all on Sunday for Day 1- Joy.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Fantastic Black Friday Book Sale


The meaning of Thanksgiving is here! Buying large quantities of items for small prices! Even better if you can do it online, which saves you having to get out of bed where you are sleeping off your meal.

Just kidding, I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday full of family, fun, and ginormous amounts of mashed potatoes and gravy.

Sales may not be the meaning of Thanksgiving, but they are definitely something to be thankful for. I am so pleased to be able to share this fantastic Black Friday book sale with you all. It is a good day for book lovers everywhere.

From Nov 27 (that’s today!) through Nov 30th, more than 70 independent Christian books are on sale. You can find free shipping, $0.99 ebookspackage deals, and more! Think 70 books is overwhelming? Narrow it down and find the perfect books for you or someone on your Christmas list by using this quiz to customize your book reading list.> What awesome reads of 2015 are you grateful for? What books are you looking forward to reading in 2016?
A note on the Ebooks Only page. All books are listed as “Sold Out.” This only refers to paperback copies of these titles. Please click onto the product pages to find descriptions and links to discounted or free ebooks.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Leah E. Good for her work organizing this sale, Gloria Repp for completing the time consuming job of uploading book info to the sale website, and Hannah Mills for her fantastic design work on the website graphics. Hannah can be contacted at hmills(at)omorecollege(dot)edu for more information about her design services.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Movie Review- Bridge of Spies

During the Cold War, an American lawyer is recruited to defend an arrested Soviet spy in court, and then help the CIA facilitate an exchange of the spy for the Soviet captured American U2 spy plane pilot, Francis Gary Powers.

Spoiler Free! I'll be back on here soon with my spoiler riddled (N-Depth) post where I will discuss the movie in depth.

My older brother and I had the pleasure of seeing this movie last night. It was one of the top movies I have ever seen. Trust Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg to know how to tell a story! And to learn that most of the story is true? Ah, it's a good day to live in reality.

The cinematography was beautiful, with several very impressive scene transitions. Some very clear contrasts were shown in the story using scene placement. Oh, and one very impressive bit of foreshadowing. I was delighted!

However, the thing that impressed me the most about this movie, was how they told the truth from every angle. Not all of the Americans were not shown as being angels, they were correctly portrayed as human beings. Humans with prejudices, and sometimes, a lack of integrity.

At the same time, Communism was not portrayed as being beautiful, as is often the propagated message given to us by our modern world. No, Communism was shown to be just as ugly and cruel as it truly was.

But above all, this movie was about people. James Donovan was an amazing man who valued human life. He was a man of integrity, who strove to do the right thing. His strength of character and desire for justice is the strongest feature of this movie.

I wish all of America would go see this movie. During one scene, I heard one of the clearest definitions of what makes America special that I have ever heard. This movie did such a magnificent job of clearly defining truths, showing human beings realistically, and above all, placing a value on life and integrity.

I highly recommend this movie as an inspiring and educational story.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why Luke Skywalker Is NOT The New Sith Lord in Episode VII

Unless you live on Hoth, you have likely seen the new Star Wars : The Force Awakens trailer by now.

And seen this amazing poster.

You've probably heard the rumors circulating about Luke Skywalker. Why isn't he on the poster? Why isn't he in the trailer? The conclusion that many have reached: Luke Skywalker is the new Sith Lord.

Whoa folks! Shut down your hyperdrives for a moment and think. Does it actually make sense for Luke Skywalker to become the new and highly improved Dark Side baddie?

I had thought I could simply hide in an asteroid and let all of the speculation fly right by me; but after reading one particular article I decided, no more! It is time to put this theory to the test.

Let's probe the galaxy just a bit to examine what we know.

The Number One Word for Movie Trailers is "Misdirection"

The fact that so many fans have come up with the exact same theory that Luke will be a Sith Lord leads me to believe one thing.

"It's a trap!"

Movie trailers are made to get us hooked, and to freak us out about potential plot twists. This leads to a frenzy of activity and hubbub that only creates better movie sales. It's not sneaky, it's good business. And we fall for it every time.

Will there be a plot twist in this movie? Of course there will, but likely it will something that none of us saw coming.

Luke Skywalker is the hero for the original trilogy.

Don't freak out Han Solo fanatics, I love that scruffy-looking nerfherder as much as the rest of you. But it is obvious, Luke is the starring character for Episodes IV-VI. Star Wars is a story about a struggle for freedom told through the eyes of a young kid who discovers he has a much larger role to play than a simple farm boy from Tatooine could have ever imagined.

A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi is the story of Luke's journey with his friends from farm boy to Jedi and leader. Luke is the knight-with-shining-lightsaber that everyone roots for.

Luke Skywalker has become a cultural icon who began a movement that represents the hearts of GENERATIONS of fans! Star Wars has accomplished the incredible feat of connecting with each new generation since it first appeared on the screen in 1977.

To suddenly knock that pillar known as Luke Skywalker out from underneath the millions of fans would be a very dangerous step. Like, more dangerous than assuming that your battle station is impregnable even with an open vent large enough to fire into.

A good reminder as well to those whose theories are based on the novels or comics of the expanded Star Wars universe; none of those works are going to be considered to be a part of the Star Wars film canon. This was announced not long after the announcement that a new Star Wars film was in the works.

Luke Recognizes His Own Weakness

Luke's story arc in the Originals is brilliantly done. A New Hope begins with Luke as a raw youth, full of eager enthusiasm and a bit of natural talent, but little else. He has the ignorance of inexperience, "I'm ready for anything!" This line basically sums up his entire attitude during this movie.

By The Empire Strikes Back Luke has calmed down a bit. The responsibility of leading a rebellion has tempered his actions somewhat, but he still has a fair amount of confidence. This confidence is shaken during his training with Yoda at Dagobah. And it is here that an incredibly pivotal scene takes place.

The Cave.

Luke is given Force vision/test when he enters a cave and encounters "Darth Vader". Upon defeating Vader, Luke is horrified to see that Vader's decapitated head is really his own head, with his own face staring back at him.

Some people believed this was foreshadowing the reveal that Vader is Luke's father. The Star Wars fan who wrote this article believes this is foreshadowing the idea that Luke will become just like his father Vader.

I always took this scene at face value (my apologies for this pun). This was a warning for Luke- Beware, this is what you are fully capable of becoming. It's a shocking and scary reminder of how truly vulnerable and human Luke is.

Luke doesn't really have time to fully digest this idea because he is soon faced with another bit of news: his friends are in danger!

Luke's two biggest motivations in his life are (1) to become a Jedi like his father and fight against evil (2) protect his friends. While his objective to become a Jedi came first on the timeline, it's pretty obvious that his priorities have shifted, since he puts his Jedi training on hold in order to help his friends.

Yes, yes, Yoda and Mr. Obi-Wan Force Ghost are very concerned. This kid is in over his head and he doesn't realize it. Those of us who have now seen the Prequels know the potential danger of acting out of fear of losing someone you love. What the heck! We wouldn't be in this mess if Anakin hadn't freaked out and made horrible choices in the past.

But, a fact that is rarely ever focused on in Star Wars is this: Love is the most powerful "force" in the world. The Jedi of old rather skipped over this idea, preferring to keep themselves unattached and emotionless. After all, emotions are messy and could get confusing, better to steer clear altogether. It might sound noble, it might even sound practical, but really, I think it became a major factor in their downfall. 

Luke travels to Bespin where he confronts his arch nemesis Darth Vader. This would have been an excellent time for a good old Han Solo warning, "Don't get cocky kid." Luke thinks he's all that and a bag of lightsaber crystals. Guess what kid, you are about to get your rear-end kicked!

A confrontation with Vader ends with Luke clinging to a platform, down one hand and a lightsaber. 

And now! The Big Reveal!

Jumping Jawas! Now Luke's entire world has been shattered, as if bleeding out and clinging to a platform isn't enough. The guy whom he thought he was safe to hate has just announced that Luke is his own offspring. And here it comes, "We can rule the galaxy as father and son." Well played Vader, you missed the play-catch-in-the-backyard stage of fatherhood, why not skip on ahead to the galaxy domination stage?

It sounds tempting. Reunite with Daddy, take down the Big Bad Emperor, and rule the galaxy!

It's here that Luke shows he was paying attention on Dagobah. He was just clearly shown how weak he is. And right now he is as vulnerable, both physically and emotionally, as he has ever been! 

What does he do? The most intelligent thing a human can do under these circumstances.

He lets go of his hold on the platform and allows his body to free fall into open air. Oh. My. Wookie.

In that single moment, in making that single decision, Luke shows some of his greatest strength: he knows his own weakness and vulnerability.

Anakin Skywalker feared being weak and powerless. He sold his soul to the Dark Side in order to gain power in order to control his circumstances. He gave in trying to run from his own weakness, which as you and I both know, is impossible. 

The Jedi Order fell largely because of their foolish pride in believing themselves to be invincible and above the rest of the galaxy. They were so blinded by their vanity that they missed a Sith Lord taking up residence right beneath their nose.

In this moment, Luke shows more maturity and understanding than Anakin and the whole Jedi Order put together. His choice to get the heck out of there enables Leia and Lando to rescue him and get away before Vader can mess with his brain anymore.

The Empire Strikes Back ends with a beautiful picture of Luke, now with a mechanical hand, wrapping his arm around his friend (twin sister) Leia. They both feel broken and they both have suffered a loss. But there is an incredible bond and a shared strength that each of them possess. This scene sets the stage beautifully with lots of foreshadowing for The Return of the Jedi.

Luke Knows His Strength

The Return of the Jedi happens many months after The Empire Strikes Back. During that intermediate time, Luke has come full circle. He has dealt with his anger and grief about the past. Now, he is peaceful and thinking about the future. That doesn't sound like future Sith Lord material to me, now does it?

Luke shows his focus and purpose in the calm and confident way he rescues his friends from Jabba the Hutt. The author of the Sith theory article I read brought up the fact that Luke killed a lot of Jabba's friends (it was actually Leia who killed Jabba). Luke's actions at Jabba's palace and barge were compared to Anakin's enraged massacre of the Sand People village in Attack of the Clones.

How is that even a comparison? Luke negotiated and gave Jabba chance for a peaceful resolution. Jabba refused and tried to feed Luke to a Rancor. When that didn't work, Luke and Co were going to be fed to a Sarlacc. And Luke had the audacity to fight back against the people trying to kill him and his friends? Luke dared to take out a few evil minions with his lightsaber, the minions who were shooting at him? Yeah, that's totally like Anakin's crazed and out-of-control murder spree of both innocent and guilty Sand People. Luke's actions weren't born out of revenge, if he had wanted revenge he would have killed everyone in Jabba's palace upon his arrival. 

But where does the truth of Luke's allegiance really reach a climactic point? When he is brought face to face with the Emperor, Mr. Big Boss himself.

It is here that Luke is put to his biggest test, inthe scene when we get the full 3D view of Luke's strength and character.

And it is here that I am most convinced that Luke Skywalker remains a Jedi.

It is here that the author of the other article went wrong in his interpretation of Luke's realizations of his power. 

All of the scenes in the new Death Star are a battle both physical and internal for Luke and Vader. For Luke it is hate for the Emperor/Dark Side, and love for Vader his father. For Vader, it is hate for the Emperor/Dark Side and what he himself as become, jumbled up with admiration and longing for this boy, his son, who is exactly what Vader wishes he could have been.

Luke does wrestle with the Dark Side, we all watch it happen. He does react out of anger, who wouldn't when the people you love most are threatened? It's a commonly known fact that you should never bring a fella's sister into a heated confrontation if you want to come out alive.

But it all comes down to that moment when Luke has defeated Vader and the Emperor is convinced his plan has worked. Luke looks down at his father's severed mechanical hand, and then looks at his own. Right here, in this moment, Luke sees just how powerful he has become, and just how powerful he could be if he embraced the Dark Side. It's all right here before him, ready and waiting for him to make the choice.

But looking at his father, Luke sees the truth that Anakin missed. 

Darth Vader may have been technically more powerful than Anakin Skywalker, but Darth Vader is more machine than man. His desire for power and control stole his ability to have control over anything, and it cost him everything and everyone he loved. In the end, Vader's choice defeated its purpose.

Luke knows what he is capable of becoming, but he sees the cost and knows his choice will only lead to misery and the loss of everything he loves.

The Emperor steps forward, delighted that he has ensnared a new apprentice.

"Good. Your hate has made you powerful. Now fulfill your destiny and take your father's place at my side."

Luke throws away his lightsaber and practically smiles at the Emperor.

"Never. I'll never turn to the Dark Side. You've failed your Highness, I am a Jedi, like my father before me."
Oh crud! What have I created?
I suppose we should really thank the Emperor, without him, Luke might not have been forced to get so tough. But thanks to himself, the Emperor is now looking at the most frightening thing he has ever witnessed. 

A Jedi who is driven and strengthened by love, the one force stronger than hate.

Oh boy! Better kill that thing FAST!

"Young fool, only now, at the end, do you understand....your feeble skills are no match for the power of the Dark Side!"

Father! Please!

"You have paid the price for your lack of young Skywalker, you will die."

The Return of The Jedi (Anakin Skywalker)

And here you have it: Luke's ultimate victory. His purpose, his vision, and his love is what redeemed Darth Vader and overthrew the Emperor. This is not the work of a Sith Lord. This is the work of a knock-out Jedi who is wise beyond his years.

You were right about me. Tell your were right.

'Nuff said. May the Force be with you, see you all in December.