Tag Archives: Advent devotion

Just Kiddin’ (Not really. I messed up.)

You may or may not know that I have a lovely part-time job that is an incredible gift and only feels like real work once a month when I have to get there at 7:30 to sing at the early service. (So not a morning person.)

The job is as a staff singer at a lovely Lutheran congregation. We sing wonderful music, like Bach and Handel, and just got new choir robes. (Hang in there. This relates to my mistake.)

I arrived this morning thinking that Advent starts the Sunday after Thanksgiving–which it often does–and prepared to put on my purple stole. (I actually paused briefly earlier this morning when getting dressed because I couldn’t help but think how my red earrings would clash with the lovely purple stole once the robe went on.) I arrived at church only to discover white stoles on the choir robes.

White??

“Isn’t it the first Sunday of Advent?”

Now Advent is confusing for lots of folks for reasons exactly like this. Not everyone celebrates Advent in the same way or on the same weeks. (I think the Irish actually do a six week Advent.) But much of the traditional church in America celebrates Advent beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas.

NEXT WEEK.

Not today.

Ooops. And I bought my candles and everything.

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STOP! Don’t light that first candle yet! Hahahaha!

Not to mention telling everyone to get that Advent devotion so they can start reading it today.

Only it’s a four-week devotion designed for the four weeks before Christmas and there are still five weeks. Not four. Because Thanksgiving comes on the fourth Thursday every November and there are five Thursdays this year, not four.

Have a headache yet?

So if you’re using my devotion this year for Advent, I’d encourage you to hold off on starting it for one more week so it will last the whole time, even though I know You’re chomping at the bit to get started. (Or you could start and leave room for all those times you miss a day ’cause you’re busy.)

And if you haven’t downloaded your free copy–there’s still time!

Look at that. Maybe it was meant to be. And here you thought you might miss out.

Now here’s the next confusing issue. I was told today no purple stoles for Advent. Next Sunday we’re wearing blue. Last year it was purple. But that was before we got the blue ones. My research shows that some churches choose purple for Advent, some do blue. Others do something else entirely.

So maybe there’s another point to be made. Advent is not about doing it all right. I don’t think there is right way except maybe this one thing: Celebrate Jesus.

Whenever, however, with whatever colors you like.

And if you’re like me and love the opportunity for stillness with Him in the busy month of December, part of that celebration just might include candles and devotional thoughts. If that’s you, I hope you’ll join me this year in reading Soul Scent: Flourish Selections for Advent, which is still available for *free download* on my website.

 

Blessing,

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Soul Scents: Flourish Selections for Advent offers four weeks of devotional thoughts, Scriptures, and prayers for meditation and worship in the weeks before Christmas. If you’re celebrating Advent with candles, you can use Sunday’s reading for reflection as you light the candles of hope, peace, joy, and love. It also includes a scripted prayer and suggestion for worship. Monday through Friday’s daily readings focus on concepts like Christmas memories, the Christmas tree, the Cross, celebration, nativity, and worship. On Saturday journal questions prompt reflection on the week’s worship experience.

Soul Scents: Flourish Selections for Advent is taken from weeks nine through twelve of the Soul Scents: Flourish thirteen-week devotional book. Additional content for reflection during the lighting of Advent candles and at the end of week is included only in this special holiday edition.

(Selections for Advent is available as a free pdf on my website, www.paulamoldenhauer.com/gifts. If you prefer to read on Kindle, you can get your copy there for 99 cents.)

 

Why I love Advent–Which Starts Sunday! (And a free Advent devotional book for you.)

The ribbons and bows looked funny on that avocado plant, but my little brother and I beamed at our parents, showing off our “Christmas tree.” To their credit they didn’t reprimand us, but the delight my nine-year-old heart hoped to see in their eyes was pain instead. They hated to disappoint us, but they couldn’t encourage such “pagan” behavior. See, I was raised with the belief that Christmas and all its trappings were not of God. Jesus was from God. He was sent to save us. But Christmas was not His birthday, and the Christmas tree was nothing more than leftovers from people who worshiped a false god.

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My first Christmas tree

It was to be another forty years before I owned my first Christmas tree. Perhaps this is one reason I dearly love Advent worship. The process to shedding the beliefs of my childhood and learning to celebrate at Christmas has been long and confusing, but the search has also been pure gold. Since I wasn’t raised with traditions around the holiday, my heart hungered to understand why people did what they did, what God thought about it, and what was right for me.

 

The Advent devotional readings became one of my favorite things, and I’m always on the look-out for a good devotional book—one that makes me think about worshiping Jesus and celebrating not only His birth, but what He came to do.

When I wrote Soul Scents: Flourish, which is a thirteen-week devotional book about my journey out of spiritual, emotional, and mental abuse, I didn’t expect a month’s worth of writing to center of Advent worship, but it’s what God placed in my heart to write. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Captivity of heart, mind, and emotions is the result of abuse and my heart has fought for years to fight out of the captivity connected to my Christmas worship.

Advent cover smallThis fall, as I worked on my Christmas novella series, Tinseled Tidings,  the Lord prompted me to pull out the weeks of Advent worship and off them free on my website. I am pleased to do this. I like to think of it as giving a Christmas gift to all who will receive it! (You can get yours by visiting for free at my website.)*

As I wrote these devotions I found myself typing, “I was created to celebrate. The trappings of Christmas are simply an expression of this need to worship, to sing, to dance. What I really seek is complete freedom to be who I am, to praise my God in abandon, to enjoy every ounce of beauty I can find, without majoring on minors or intense self-evaluation of the rightness of every choice.

From the beginning of my life the enemy tried to steal this identity from me. Children of celebration don’t do well with strife, but I was surrounded by it from day one. They need free expression and movement and beauty. As a child, religion created within me a mistrust of the aesthetics. The culture I was raised in didn’t give much credence to the arts. In the early years movies were considered evil. Dance classes a sin. And much of art inappropriate. Beautiful spaces were not particularly appreciated. There was a prevailing attitude in the church of my childhood that poverty was more acceptable than riches. Too much emphasis on outward adornment was also suspect. As a religious culture, there was a scarcity in our ability to celebrate, to embrace the abundance of the gifts God offered us. Christmas was but a tiny piece of a prevailing attitude that found suspect anything that included too much celebration, too much joy, too much beauty—too much abundance of any type.”

As the words flew from my fingers I grasped something big. I wrote, “It isn’t just Christmas the enemy has tried to steal from me. It is life!

The right to be who I am and breathe my own air the unique way He created me to do it!
You see, I am a child of dance and song. I am a child of celebration. From the beginning the enemy has sought to steal this from me. He has tried to exploit my desire to please God by turning it into striving instead of joyful surrender and praising advancement. He tried to twist the deep parts of my personality, the “old soul” that is me to make me melancholy instead of simply reflective and insightful. He tried to poison my sanguine temperament with hopelessness.

But he has lost his battles. His schemes are crushed into the ground. Where he sowed pain and despair my Jesus came in and poured His healing blood and turned all that evil had planted into seeds of faith. My Jesus watered those seeds with the showers of blessings and storms of trial and the every-single-day-new-hope of His Light. The seeds are bursting forth in blossoms, and the garden of my heart where He dwells is fragrant with grace. The turtledoves have arrived and coo their love song there in my garden heart. The garden my Lord planted for His enjoyment. Here there is hope. There is dance and song and celebration. For I am His child, created for joy.”

As I share those words** with you today, passion rises, jumps, screams out of my body asking, “how about you?” Where has the enemy stolen your joy? Taken away your worship? Lied to you, forcing you into a box of unending self-examination and rules or held you back from enjoying abundance?

My friend we are FREE.

Remember the truth of the beautiful carol, “In His name all oppression shall cease!” and join with worshipers of the ages singing:

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim! ***

May God meet you in joy and freedom this Advent season. I hope you’ll download my *free* Advent devotion and let me be a part of that.

From my heart to yours!

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*If you prefer to read on Kindle instead of downloading the free pdf, Selections for Advent is available on Kindle for 99 cents.

**Taken from week 2 of Soul Scents: Flourish Selections for Advent

***O Holy Night’s original verse by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure in 1847, translated into English by John Sullivan Dwight (1812-1893)

 

I Should Have Known

rsz_tinseled_tidings_small_scroogeI’m typing happily along, answering interview questions that will be placed in the back of The Joy Scrooge, one of the holiday romance novellas in my newest fiction series, Tinseled Tidings. 

Suddenly I find myself typing, “And so you can go to my website to download a free Advent devotional.”

“What?” I thought.

Then I chuckled. I knew it had to happen. It was the perfect non-fiction companion to the playful inspirational Christmas novellas I’d been writing. I contacted the Free to Flourish Publishing team, and they agreed to make my dream come true. We lifted the daily devotions from weeks 9-12 of Soul Scents: Flourish, added content, and off we went!

One of my favorite additions to the Advent devotional is a weekly Sunday worship that includes ideas for meditation and celebration as you light Advent candles.

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I hope you’ll receive this gift of my heart! You can down download a *free* PDF of Soul Scents: Flourish Selections for Advent  by visiting my website. For those of you who prefer reading on Kindle, it’s available on Amazon for 99 cents. I felt like it was a God-kiss when the Advent devotion published on Kindle on October 29th, my 52nd birthday!

I’m super excited about the line-up for this fall and the release of the Tinseled Tidings novella collection. The first book, You’re a Charmer, Mr. Grinch, which was a finalist for novella of the year in the ACFW Carol Awards, is already available on Kindle. We have two more titles, one releasing every fifteen days on Kindle, so readers will have them before Christmas!

But what if you prefer paperback?

All three of these fun stories will be included in the paper back release of Tinseled Tidings (Volume 1), coming in time for the holidays.

Stay tuned for more details!

Until Next Time,

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The Two Trees

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Join us each day through December 25 for my journey to the manager–from a child who believed Christmas was taboo to a woman who longs to worship at Christmas. These devotional thoughts are excerpted from Soul Scents: Flourish, which releases soon. If you’re chiming in late, you can see the whole series here. Just scroll down to December 1 in this category.

 

 

He took the punishment, and that made us whole.

Through his bruises we get healed. ~ Isaiah 53:5, MSG

evergreen1I don’t know much about Christmas trees. I’ve owned only two. Both were breathtaking in their beauty. Both awakened worship within me. Both gave me hours and hours of joy.

But they smelled different.

The first one, the one Jerry chose for our family, was much more fragrant.

I learned that particular kind of Christmas tree is shaped by the blade. It’s perfect triangular shape comes because it was cut, refined, prepared for its life purpose.

theoldruggedcrossOh my.

Sweet Jesus.

So often the sweet aroma comes in the breaking.

As King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Your majesty fills worlds seen and unseen.

Yet . . .

It is Your very crushing that sends forth the sweet, clean scent.

Yours.

And mine.

He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.

One look at him and people turned away.

We looked down on him, thought he was scum.

But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.

We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.

But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!

He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed. . . .

~~~

He was beaten, he was tortured,
but he didn’t say a word.

Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
and like a sheep being sheared,
he took it all in silence.

Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
and did anyone really know what was happening?

He died without a thought for his own welfare,
beaten bloody for the sins of my people. . . .

~~~

Still, it’s what GOD had in mind all along,
to crush him with pain.

The plan was that he give himself as an
offering for sin

so that he’d see life come from it—life, life,
and more life.
And GOD’s plan will deeply prosper through him.

~~~

Out of that terrible travail of soul,
he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.

Through what he experienced, my righteous one,
my servant,

will make many “righteous ones,”
as he himself carries the burden of their sins.

(Isaiah 53:3–11, MSG)

Sweet Jesus, You were crushed to heal my crushing, the bruises and scars put upon me and that I put upon others. You took the punishment and made me whole. Thank You for coming to us.

Thoughts on the tree keep getting deeper . . . more tomorrow.

Until then,

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Are Christmas Trees Pagan?

Join us each day through December 25 for my journey to the manager–from a child who believed Christmas was taboo to a woman who longs to worship at Christmas. These devotional thoughts are excerpted from Soul Scents: Flourish, which releases soon. If you’re chiming in late, you can see the whole series here. Just scroll down to December 1 in this category.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.

They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

~ Jeremiah 17:7–8 NIV

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I enjoy beautiful trees wherever I go!

The happy ending to yesterday’s story writes like a Hallmark Christmas movie, and while it is a glorious, joyous memory, the reality of the experience wasn’t quite so simple. It was a huge challenge for my husband to make the choice to bring home a Christmas tree. The teachings that held him back ran deep. He bought the tree out of a desire to obey God and a desire to love me well, but the tree’s presence in our home made my man uncomfortable.

I spent untold hours enjoying its twinkling lights and crisp, fresh fragrance, but for a while my husband avoided the room where it was. He had acted in obedience and love, but the choice went against every fiber of his being. It was hard for him to get used to the foreign object in his home, one he’d vowed would never be there.

Jerry made the choice to buy the tree after praying for many days about a note he’d received from a friend. It encouraged him to buy a Christmas tree, by sharing the following thoughts:

“The tree is Mine,” says the Lord. “It is beauty. It represents how I am forever green, even when life is full of snowstorms and cold winds. When stripped of its leaves it represents the foundation of the cross. And when it produces pinecones it represents newness. . . . It will be a healing tree and a place that marks a new beginning for you. When you look at it you will be reminded that My promises are true. . . . The pagans and the world lay no claim on it for My Word says, ‘Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time’” (Ecclesiastes 1:10, NIV).

I love that my husband was willing to ponder our friend’s message. I love that he went before the Lord and spent the nights tossing and turning and seeking confirmation that those words were really from his God. I love that once Jerry was convinced God spoke to him, my dear husband acted in obedience, doing something completely foreign to his upbringing, something he never expected to do.

We printed out the words about the tree and framed them. It’s important to Jerry that the children and I understand why he made the choice to bring the tree into our home. He did it out of obedience because the Lord showed him that before there was even a Christmas to celebrate, the evergreen tree was created to bring its Creator glory. It stands beautiful and tall as a metaphor of God.

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This tree is at the Briarwood in Golden, CO

I sense a whisper inside that it is also a metaphor of what He does in us. As God remakes us into the image of Jesus, He gives us the strength to stand forever green—alive—even when our life is invaded by cold wind and storm—or heat and drought as today’s Scripture talks about. Sometimes we feel stripped of our beauty, scarred, and yet in all things He works to make us into a symbol of hope and redemption. We experience rebirth in salvation and rebirth as we are healed. He produces new things, good fruit, from our lives.

I hope you enjoy your Christmas tree as deeply as I enjoy mine. As we gaze upon its beauty this year, may it remind us of God’s creative, redemptive heart. May we worship our God as One who is forever green, vibrant, verdant, and alive in every storm, the who helps us choose life in our storms! Even as our hearts lift in wonder of the incarnation, when we look upon our Christmas tree, may we also see it as a reminder of His greatest act of love—the willingness to sacrifice Himself upon that cross, so we can be made anew!

Oh, Lord, how beautiful You are! Nothing in all creation can be stolen from You, debased to be less than it is. Your creation, whether an evergreen tree or a person is beautiful and right, pointing all of creation back to the wonder of who You are. You are forever green no matter the struggles of this world. Help me to be alive, too, not deadened by the storms I’ve endured, but living awake—flourishing. Verdant! You came to earth anticipating the cross. Your act of sacrifice purchased me for Yourself, so I can live in the fullness of who You meant me to be. No one. Nothing. Not in this world or the unseen realms. There is nothing in heaven or earth that can debase me or put a godless mark upon me or take away my beauty. Your act on the Golgotha’s tree promises I am new. Thank You, Jesus for coming for me. As I gaze upon the gaily lit Christmas trees this year, remind me of Your strength and the strength You give me. Remind me that even when I feel stripped, You create a vessel of honor. Remind me that You make all things new. Help me to stand tall gazing at Your beauty, and to believe that You see beauty when You look upon me.

More thoughts about trees coming the next several days.

Until tomorrow,

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Vulnerable at Advent

20161201_173427.jpg“We start with intimacy. Longing. Vulnerability,” said our choir director. “We’re moving from Advent to the Incarnation.”

He was talking about the progression of Christmas music we’ll perform at our concert on Sunday, but I heard it with heart-ears. It’s exactly how I feel.

Vulnerable. Intimate. Longing.

How I long for deeper connection to Jesus! How I long for release to joy. To celebration. How breathless expectation both rises in me in hope–and falls within me in fear of disappointment. How I need Jesus to come and meet me in some very tender, raw places. How I’ve tucked myself next to His heart as I ponder. Wait. Wonder.

Advent. The longing for the incarnation. Emmanuel. God with us.

How confused I get at what that means and how it looks.

I have Christian friends who say the same thing. “I don’t really get Advent. What exactly is that anyway?”

Their admission surprises me. Maybe I thought my background uniquely set me up to not “get” all things Christmas. See, I didn’t celebration Christmas for most of my life. There was no Advent calendar at my house. Heck, there wasn’t even a Christmas tree. Jerry and I grew up in a denomination which taught that Christmas was pagan worship. We left that church twenty years ago, but our struggle with understanding Christmas continues to this day.

My latest book, Soul Scents: Flourish, releases soon. In it I talk about a lot of stuff I’ve never shared publicly before. The last section of the books talks about my struggle with–and longing for–Christmas worship.

I can’t help but wonder if you might relate to my struggles to find Him in this season. Oh, our stories are very different, but maybe you and I both feel a little vulnerable. Hungry for more of Jesus, but kind-of afraid He won’t show up. Or that He will and we’ll miss it.

As I pondered what I want this Christmas season to look like for me, I realize I long to celebrate Jesus and give good gifts. The very best gift ever given is Jesus, and so for the next 25 days I offer Him to you by sharing a little of my personal journey to the manger. I feel like the little drummer boy. I have nothing of earthly value to give you, limited resources, but I offer what I have to give. He played his drum. I write my words. And I give them, as a Christmas present, to you and to Him.

The devotional thoughts I share until Christmas come from Soul Scents: FlourishSome will be published in their entirety; others will be edited for brevity or clarity (since you don’t have the context of what comes before them in the book).

So I hope you’ll journey with me for the next 24 days. Invite your friends. Comment. Send me little Christmas notes via the blog-o-sphere and I’ll write you one back. It’ll be like exchanging mini Christmas cards! Let’s celebrate and journey together.

Until Tomorrow,

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