For Better or Worse: Remaining Faithful to God in the Face of Adversity

This is a simple post, but sometimes, we need simple reminders of the greatness of our God to overcome our complex emotions.

The other night in prayer, I was thinking about and praying for our nation in the face of whatever may come in the next few weeks. Emotions have been high for many Americans as the presidential inauguration is scheduled for next week. We well know that God raises up kings (and other leaders) and takes them down. We can rest assured that His Will is what’s best for us, even when we may not like the immediate outcome in the natural.

So, what is our path forward in the face of adversity?

When I was sitting and praying about these things, I believe God led me to Daniel chapter 6 and reminded me of the single most important priority for any child of God no matter what may come our way—our relationship with Him.

(10) “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.

(11) Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God.

(12) Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king’s decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of thee, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.

(13) Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day.”

~Daniel 6:10-13 (KJV)

In this chapter, corrupt leaders conspired against Daniel, who oversaw the financial affairs of the kingdom, to get him out of the way because he was an upright man. They manipulated King Darius to sign a decree saying that no one could present a petition to anyone, including God, except for the king for 30 days, knowing full well Daniel’s faithfulness to God. Now, Daniel knew that the king signed this decree, but instead of cowering, panicking, and following along with the corrupt leaders, he maintained his relationship with God. He remained faithful and prayed to God three times a day “as he did aforetime.”

In the face of evil, of darkness, of danger, and a threat to his life, Daniel remained faithful to God.

In the face of adversity, he continued to put God first.

His faithfulness got himself thrown into the lions’ den. Now, any one of us, if we went through that situation, may be thinking at that point, “God, whatchu doin’? Where you at? This ain’t looking good.” But Daniel didn’t doubt God, and as we see, God delivered him from the mouth of the lions.

(19) “Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions.

(20) And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?

(21) Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever.

(22) My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.

(23) Then was the king exceedingly glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.”

~Daniel 6:19-23 (KJV)

No matter what kind of adversity comes our way, if we’re faithful to God, He will deliver us.

What we learn from Daniel’s experience in this chapter is that things always seem to be falling apart in the natural. Remember the three Hebrew boys from Daniel chapter three? Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego refused to worship to the golden image King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and the king had them thrown into the fiery furnace. In the natural, things seemingly became much, much worse.

I certainly would rather not be thrown into a fiery furnace. I don’t think I’d be all that calm or chill with it, but maybe that’s just me.

In the natural, when we consider what we see with our flesh, we can often allow ourselves to become focused only on the storm and only on the bad, but we fail to see with the spirit. We fail to see that no matter how bad things may look in the natural, God is preparing a great work in the supernatural.

This great work then serves as a great witness to others of the greatness and glory of God. God delivering the three Hebrews from the fiery furnace impressed Nebuchadnezzar, and he blessed God, declared that no one could speak against God, and he promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (see Daniel 3:28-30). God delivering Daniel from the lions’ mouths impressed Darius, and he made a decree that gloried God as “the living God” whose “dominion shall be even unto the end” (see Daniel 6:26). Not only is our faithfulness to God a witness to others, but how God comes through for us is a testament to others.

God shows His Glory to the world when adversity comes.

Things always seem to get worse in the natural before they get better. Before God moves, before deliverance comes, and before God reveals His Glory, things seem to be falling apart.

But God is moving.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” ~Romans 8:28 (KJV)

God was right there with the Hebrew boys when they were thrown into the fire. He was right there with Daniel when he was thrown into the lions’ den.

God is always with us. We just have to keep the faith, pray, and keep up our relationship with God.

No matter what may happen in the natural world, God is getting ready to do a mighty work for His people and for His Glory the likes of which the world has never seen.

Fight or Flight? What to Do When Life Gets Overwhelming

I’ve been tired a lot more than usual this week, and the effects of the events at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday have been lingering in my mind. I spent the majority of the day yesterday trying to understand everything going on in our country and world. I read and pondered the updates from insiders on social media, and I prayed.

I trusted that God had everything in control (and I still do), and yet I was still very tired. My brain felt like it would nearly explode from deciphering coded messages and conflicting information from all sides.

What does x mean?

What really happened?

If x scenario doesn’t happen, what then does that mean?

Why did so-and-so say or do what they did?

I later realized my weariness was not due to fear or worry over what might happen but over realizing the significance of where we are and what will happen next.

We are in a spiritual war, and the people of God are fighting a battle against not only powers of darkness but against our own flesh and weaknesses. We are only human, of course, and we need rest. But how do we deal with things when our fight vs. flight mode kicks in? If we’re too weary to fight, what then? Run away from our problems? (A terrible solution, really.) Instead of running away from the issue and from stress, I propose a different kind of “flight”:

Running to Jesus and not away from our struggles.

It’s moments like these when our weariness reminds us that we are flawed and incapable beings who desperately need our Creator. We don’t have the strength on our own to keep going. We aren’t capable on our own to fight this spiritual war and still stand for Truth, but that’s okay because we have Jesus.

When our hearts are overwhelmed, He leads us to the rock that is higher (see Psalm 61:2). That rock is our God (see Psalm 62:2, 6).

David endured many circumstances that seemed overwhelming. His son, Absalom, instigated a rebellion against him, and David had to flee (see 2 Samuel 15). David’s decision to activate his own “flight mode” wasn’t an act of giving up. Instead, he continued to rely on God and run to Him for shelter and strength.

(3) “But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me: my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.

(4) I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.

(5) I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me.”

David cried to God and rested, and God sustained him. This word “sustained” means, according to the dictionary, “to strengthen or support physically or mentally.” The Hebrew word that we translate into “sustained” also means “to establish” or “uphold.”

When adversity comes, God strengthens our body and our mind, but we must go to Him in prayer, and we must allow ourselves to rest. The rest we have in Him restores our soul, strengthens our body, and refreshes our spirit.

(28) “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

(29) Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

(30) For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (KJV)

Be Prepared

This is the story of how I almost contracted pneumonia after a treacherous journey in a torrential rainstorm during the fall semester of 2019.

It was around five o’clock in the evening, and I had only fifteen minutes to race from one side of my university campus to the other side and make it to my history class in time. When I chose my classes that semester, I knew a moment might come when I would regret the back-to-back scheduling of classes on opposite sides of the campus, but I could never predict how or why that might happen.

I was not prepared for the rain. Sure, I had checked my weather app that morning and knew there was a slight chance of rain, but it was only slight, and I didn’t want to carry around an umbrella all day, so I brushed it aside. A foolish decision, really, for the rain was not light, and I had no tool at my disposal to protect me.

It was a cold October evening, if memory serves me correctly, and I had to rush from my English to my history building while carrying my bag full of books and my purse as the rain poured. It soaked my thick, chenille-knit sweater and flattened my curls against my scalp. Of course, I tried to shield my head from the rain by holding my notebook over my head, but then I realized that I couldn’t let my class notes become soaked and, thereby, unreadable, and so I quickly stuffed the notebook back in my bookbag and sloshed forward as the rain beat on. By the time I reached my history building, I was nearly thoroughly wet.

And, of course, my history building was cool and breezy, and so I sat in the front row of my history class on the Spanish Conquest for nearly three hours in the evening in a wet sweater and damp hair.

I could get pneumonia, I thought. I could have a terrible cold. I might freeze to death in this classroom, wearing my adorable but uncomfortably wet chenille-knit sweater. I should have known.

Yes, I should have known to bring my umbrella and perhaps even my rain jacket that day, and when my father picked me up from class that night, he cranked up the heat in his truck for me and wisely informed me I should make sure to bring my umbrella next time. That week, he brought me a poncho to keep on me “just in case.”

Spoiler alert: I did not die, and neither did I contract pneumonia or come down with a cold or even the sniffles and a light cough. But the uncomfortable experience of sitting in a cool room in damp clothes and wet hair for three hours gave me plenty of reason to always be prepared for the next time it might be raining during the walk between my classes. If I had been prepared, I could have saved myself all that discomfort.

But don’t we often ignore our better judgment and find ourselves ill-prepared for life sometimes?

There were times in college when I failed to start my morning with a proper prayer session, and the rest of my day was awful. I was extra irritable and extra stressed and generally in a bad mood, and I remember thinking each time that if only I had prepared myself for the day in prayer, then perhaps I wouldn’t have been so miserable.

Prayer is not only our time to commune with God, but it’s how we prepare for each day and each situation so that we begin each day and situation prayed up and spiritually balanced.

I’ve prayed before every test I’ve taken, paper or assignment I’ve submitted, and important decision I’ve made. If I fail to do so, it is the same for me as failing to give God full control of every situation. Failing to put my life and work in His hands is the same as attempting to keep my life and work under the control of my incapable and ill-equipped hands.

I need Jesus to get through each day and each situation.

I need Him when I’m taking a test.

I need Him when I’m choosing which career decision to make.

I need Him when I’m walking through the literal or metaphorical rainstorm.

If we’re going to be prepared for whatever comes our way in life, we can’t ignore our responsibility to seek Him in prayer first. During prayer, God equips us with the ability and strength we need to get through each day, for He is the only One Who knows what each day will hold.

Prayer is preparation, and our preparation must begin with Jesus.

The Takeaway

At the end of a year, I always find myself reflecting on how I may have changed over the past twelve months and the overarching lesson I may have learned. In 2019, I was anxious for the year to end. 2019 didn’t see my personal life growing the way I had hoped it would. My family endured emotional struggles, and it was largely an uneventful year. At the beginning of 2020, I was hopeful. In an early Facebook post, I wrote that I was “claiming 2020 as a year of growth, positive change, restoration, fulfillment, and joy.”

Well, January passed, and I still wasn’t happy in my personal life. I was in my final semester at Missouri State University and longed for it to be over so my life could finally start. February passed, and March came, and the pandemic began to rear its ugly head. College moved completely online.

Online classes were an easy transition for me. I’d taken at least two online classes every semester since my second in college, and I loved online learning. I didn’t have a job, and therefore, staying at home 98% of the time as opposed to 90% of the time hardly changed my life at all. Online church was a big adjustment for my family and church, but we held onto the fact that we knew we’d all be back together again, and several weeks later, we were.

During the first few months of the pandemic, my personal problems and plans took a backseat to adjusting to our new schedule and growing concern over the state of the country. I’d expected to have a full-time job by the time I’d graduated, but very few places in my local area wanted to hire new employees during a pandemic. It appeared this year would not be the year I had dreamed it would be. How could I grow when there were no opportunities to go places and experience the next phase of my adult life? How could there be any positive change amidst a pandemic? How could I find restoration when more things in my life were taken away? How could I find fulfillment and joy when there was distraction, frustration, and turmoil in my life and all around me?

The summer passed, and God blessed me with a part-time online position as a writing tutor, and though it wasn’t what I had hoped it would be, 2020 began to change me for the better.

After a series of sermons and messages during which God spoke into my life, I decided to cut distractions out of my life and give God complete control over my desires and plans. In the lowest moment of my life when I despaired over whether I would truly be able to connect with God the way I needed to for a miracle to happen in my life, God spoke to me about pouring out my entire being to Him and serving Him with everything, even if I didn’t think it amounted to very much.

So, I started this blog, stepping far out of my comfort zone, to use for Him the passion He gave me for writing. And after several weeks of studying His Word more, praying more fervently, and seeking Him more, I’ve become closer to Him and closer to the person He wants me to be. Lord knows (and my family knows), I am lightyears away from being that best version of myself, but I am closer than I was when 2020 started.

I prayed for growth, and I got it.

I now run two websites and a blog on two social media sites, and God blessed me with publication of a short story of mine over the summer.

I asked for positive change, and I got it.

2019 me had become less than pleased with my personal life and where I was in my life. I wanted to be as happy and content as I had been so long ago before I allowed college and spiritual struggles to drain me and weaken my joy. So, I prayed for restoration, fulfillment, and joy.

2020 me found restoration, fulfillment, and joy in my relationship with God alone. It took years of suffering and a pandemic to stir my soul and move me to action, but I decided not to allow my pain to control my life anymore.

God gave me everything I had asked for in 2020. None of it looked like what I had thought it would, but He didn’t fail me, and He never will.

What’s the takeaway I learned from this year?

Speak life, not death over your situation. Words have power.

Pray in faith. The storm may still be brewing, but our peace is in God, and He is the Miracle-Worker.

Believe in God. Whatever His Promises are for you, they will come to pass.

Look up. Look up to Jesus where our help comes from, and look up to Heaven, our eternal home, because He is coming back soon.

I struggled as we all have in various ways this year, but I became a different person than I was in January 2020. I grew, changed for the better, was restored in my soul, and became fulfilled and filled with the joy of the Lord. I still have a long way to go, but 2020 taught me to never give up and never go back to the way I used to be.

Only God knows what 2021 may bring us, but no matter what may come, my prayer is that we will see the promises of God become manifested in our lives and that we will become the strong, faithful fighters for truth and humble servants of God that He wants us to be.

So, speak life. Pray in faith. Believe in God. Look up.

Jesus is on the Throne!

3 Things That Remind Us of The True Meaning of Christmas as We Celebrate

Christmas is almost here, and 2020 is almost over. I’ve been savoring as much of this holiday season as I can because this crazy year has inspired me to stop taking the little joys in life for granted. Crowded malls, ice skating rinks, and Christmas light shows didn’t draw me in prior to 2020, but now, I’m itching to experience new adventures with close friends and family. I suppose you might say I used to let my own life and various things get in the way of those “little joys” in much the same way I allowed the tests and trials we’ve endured this year to distract me, momentarily, from the joy of living for Jesus in a tumultuous age.

But isn’t this the way our human mind often works? We get busy, we get stressed, and we get distracted. We often allow the external world and internal pressures and plans to absorb our attention and sway our emotions.

How often—amidst holiday planning, Christmas shopping, decorating, and baking—have you allowed yourself this season to stop and think about the importance of why we celebrate Christmas? How often have you meditated on the fact that our God, who didn’t need to leave His Throne in Heaven, came down to us, wrapped Himself in flesh, lived among us on this earth, raised disciples, performed miracles, and endured persecution and rejection only to die an excruciating death on the Cross to save us from our sins before raising Himself from the tomb so that we don’t have to pay the eternal price for our own mistakes? Sure, many of us may have heard this message preached and have read it in the Gospels one thousand times, especially this time of year, but how often do we really allow ourselves to take time out and thank God that He came for us?

Life gets busy. We’ve got relatives coming over for Christmas, or we have to visit relatives’ houses, or we have to help plan or participate in a Christmas play, or we have to do all of these things and manage to keep our stress levels down so we, too, can enjoy Christmas day. The hustle and bustle often causes many to dread the holidays and long for Christmas to be over before it’s even begun, but we cannot allow the commercialization of Christmas to wear down our spirits and dampen our enthusiasm for celebrating the birth of our Savior. We cannot allow the true meaning of Christmas to become lost amidst all the planning, baking, gift-opening, gatherings, activities, and cute decorations. And so, to help you keep your mind focused on the real reason why we celebrate Christmas for the remainder of this week as you gather with loved ones near or far, here are three things you can spot around you that symbolize aspects of the true story of Christmas:

1. The Christmas Tree Topper

On top of our Christmas tree is a bright star that we purchased from Walmart a few years ago. We replaced our 20-year-old angel topper that I remember from my childhood. It was a beautiful angel–small and clothed in a simple white robe. It had blonde curls and a tiny halo, and its hands were pressed together and its eyes closed like it was praying. I have many memories of getting this angel out with the Christmas décor every year and seeing it lit atop the tree, looking as though it were silently meditating on the birth of our King as it glowed a soft yellow light. Now, our star topper glows with an even softer yellow light than our angel did, but nearly every time I look at it, I think of this line from an old Christmas song: “A star, a star, dancing in the night with a tail as big as a kite.”

This line is, of course, from the song “Do You Hear What I Hear,” which is from the perspective of various elements or participants in the Christmas story, but it calls to mind how the star in the east guided the wise men to Jesus. Perhaps as you look at your star or angel topper this year, it will remind you to draw near to our King and worship Him for His Glory.

(9) “When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

(10) When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”

~Matthew 2:9-10 (KJV)

2. The Gifts Under The Tree

Under our Christmas tree are gifts for each member of our family that we open each Christmas morning. In a house of introverts, our gift-opening is very calm and relaxing. I have the job of turning on our Christmas Pandora radio station on the screen for background music and pulling out the gifts from under the tree. My sister directs the correct gifts to each recipient, and then we wait as our parents open theirs first. Then, my sister and I open our stockings and other presents, and as we all gradually open our gifts, we smile, chuckle, offer gratitude, and make sure the cats don’t chew on the wrapping paper.

But we don’t give out gifts for our own enjoyment only. The tradition of gift-giving is to commemorate how the wise men brought gifts to the child-King Jesus.

“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” ~Matthew 2:11 (KJV)

Perhaps the gifts under your Christmas tree are in gold wrapping paper or have gold bows taped to the top of each gift like ours do. Perhaps as each of us unwrap our gifts this year and watch loved ones open theirs, the gold paper and bows will remind us of the treasures the wise men gave to Jesus. Perhaps the gifts will remind us how Jesus gave His life for us. And perhaps they’ll remind us how we should offer up ourselves and our worship as our gift to Him.

3. The Nativity Scene

We’ve had the same nativity, or manger, scene for as long as I can remember, and it’s as well put together as it was when I was a child. In my own room, I have a manger scene and pictures depicting this scene as well. In both rooms, this scene is at the center of all other Christmas decorations. It wouldn’t seem fitting to place a tree or some other decoration in the center and leave the manger scene to the side. The manger scene depicts the birth of our King with other figures from the story of His birth gazing down at our Savior. It’s a mesmerizing scene to behold, reminding us of the miracle of our great God putting Himself in one tiny body as a newborn baby to live on earth and become our resurrected King. The manger scene captures the awe of that moment when His Creation, both man and nature, beheld the glory of our Messiah.

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

~Luke 2:10-14 (KJV)

As you open gifts, devour Christmas dinner and festive desserts, and chat with loved ones this week, all you have to do to stay focused on Him is look around and spot the symbols that represent the birth of our King. You can pass around gifts and remember the gifts the wise men brought to Jesus. You can gaze at your lit tree and meditate on the star of Bethlehem or the angels glorifying the newborn King. You can glance over at the nativity scene and visualize the night our long-prophesied Messiah was born, the evidence of hope and light in the darkness for His people then and for us even now.

Our hope is in Jesus, whose miraculous birth we must not allow the distractions of this world to overshadow. Jesus is the reason for the season.

Breathe Pray Repeat will be on a brief break until this coming Monday as I celebrate our King Jesus with my family. Merry Christmas to all BPR readers and subscribers! I appreciate all of you and hope you have a wonderful Christmas celebration with loved ones.

~Caitlin Hale

Prayer and Perseverance

I made it.

After 5 ½ years, I finally walked in my graduation ceremony at Missouri State University. I technically graduated in May, but COVID resulted in a delayed ceremony.

I entered college in the fall of 2015, and it all feels like a century ago. And yet I remember it all so clearly—the all-nighters, the pre-exam dread, the panic attacks when I didn’t get my desired grade on an assignment, the shortness of breath after rushing across campus to get to back-to-back classes in time. I could possibly write a book about my college experience because I took a wide range of challenging courses, had unusual and interesting encounters with students and classmates, and managed to get through it all unscathed. But also slightly traumatized.

The most important accomplishment after 5 ½ years of attending liberal colleges is (as some have told me) that I kept my faith through it all. Indeed, I left college this past May with a stronger understanding of who I am in Christ than I had when I entered college in 2015. There were moments when classmates openly ridiculed conservative and Christian beliefs as though they assumed no one in the room held those beliefs. There were liberal professors who taught ideologies and theories counter to what I believe, but I was always able to discern between the truth and a lie. God kept my mind stayed on Him through it all. There were even so many moments when I was positive I wouldn’t pass a test or keep a 4.0 (which meant the world to me), but every time, I prayed, didn’t give up, and trusted God to take care of it. And He did.

You see, I can’t do anything on my own—pass a test, write a great paper, or withstand others’ ridicule and challenges of my beliefs.

But through Christ, I can do all those things.

I firmly believe that He is the reason I made it this far when I was depressed and burned out from college in 2018. He is the reason I persevered and was able to graduate. He is the reason I can testify today that no amount of secular teaching ever caused me to waver in my faith and belief in Him. The more college exposed me to worldly spirits and points of view, the closer He pulled me to Him because I kept praying and kept believing in Him.

Prayer and perseverance.

That’s it.

If you’re in college right now or thinking of going to college someday soon, be encouraged that you can make it through and finish strong. Don’t stop praying. Don’t stop studying His Word. Don’t stop going to church.

Just breathe. You will make it.

Pray. (Give your cares to God.)

And repeat.

Every single day take it step by step and day by day. Pretty soon, you’ll be looking back over that finish line, relieved that you made it and rejoicing in God for carrying you through.

He did it for me. I know He’ll do it for you.

My Top Christmas Worship Songs

It’s that magical time of year when Christmas music echoes from loud speakers in malls, grocery stores, and town squares, creating an atmosphere of joy and cheer or at least reminding rushed shoppers of how soon Christmas will be here and of how little time they have left to check off the Christmas gifts on their list. I love it all—the Christmas tunes, the jingling of the bells that mall Santas carry, the countdown to Christmas day. Every year, I gleefully wrap Christmas gifts as Christmas songs play on my Pandora station, and I excitedly make fudge, yule log cake, Christmas cookies, and apple tart with “White Christmas” and other popular songs on in the background. Yes, Christmas music is an essential part of my holiday traditions. But there’s more to Christmas than presents and baking, because, of course, we celebrate Christmas to commemorate Christ’s first coming—His birth as our Savior.

I love finding new Christmas songs that worship Jesus and bring to mind how He came from a throne in Heaven to live here on earth and die for us so that we don’t have to pay the price for our sins. He already paid it. His decision as our Creator to love us unconditionally and die for us never ceases to amaze me.

We’re unworthy. Undeserving. But He came anyway.

This season is a reminder of the fact that God is love. Jesus loves us more than we could ever fathom, and when we celebrate Christmas and His birth, we’re also celebrating the fact that He will come again someday soon to take us from this dark and sinful world to live with Him forever.

Here are ten of my top Christmas worship songs that I listen to this season to celebrate His birth and unconditional love for us. Whether you’re in your car or wrapping Christmas gifts, add them to your playlist and worship along! If there are any other Christmas worship songs on your favorites list, let me know in the comments below!

His Name Shall Be by Matt Redman

It Came to Pass by Vertical Worship

The First Noel by Mark Condon, ft. Shara McKee and Ryan Johns

Noel by Lauren Daigle

Messiah by Francesca Battistelli

Worship Medley by Mark Condon, ft. Farrah Easter and Shara McKee

Jesus Came by Mark Condon, ft. Farrah Easter and Ryan Johns

Behold Him by Francesca Battistelli

Let Us Adore by Elevation Worship

Offering (Christmas Version) by Umobile Worship

Why Things Happen


This may be the question we ask God the most. Why did “x” have to happen? Why couldn’t I have gotten that job? Why did you let me fail that test when I studied so hard? Why did so-and-so have to die? Why are you letting bad things happen to me? Why, why, why?

We wonder, we fret, we pity ourselves, and we ask “why, God?” until our eyes are swollen, and depression consumes our spirit. We see through a glass darkly, so we sometimes cannot see that there is always a purpose behind our pain. Ah, yes—the statement no one wants to hear when they’re going through something, but we humans often only learn things the hard way, especially young adults, and our struggles exist to make us stronger if for no other reason.

Physical pain can be a good thing. It tells us that something is wrong and that we may need medical attention. When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I never felt a literal pain as in aching bones, but I felt a mental pain. I was fatigued and nauseous (among other things), and the very sight of my weary self signaled to others, like the receptionist at urgent care, that something was wrong with me. Miserable is the word I typically use to describe how I felt then, but if I hadn’t felt that way, I might not have known for quite some time that I had diabetes. My pain served a purpose, but it’s often emotional pain that is the hardest to see through and understand.

During and after the spring semester in 2018, I felt an emotional and spiritual exhaustion that threw me out of sorts, and it set me on a path to realign my focus. I had just entered a four-year university to get my bachelor’s degree, and the shift in the atmosphere from a small community college to a very liberal university was palpable. All semester, I was stressed from classwork that involved treating subjective, liberal studies as legitimate, evidence-based coursework, which greatly conflicted with my conservative and Christian beliefs. But I felt an exhaustion deeper than simple stress due to papers and exams, and it escalated that summer.

Never before had I been tired literally every day. It is an understatement to say that I slept a lot. Practically all I wanted to do was sleep, and when I wasn’t sleeping, I was tired and disturbed in my spirit. I loathed college—loathed it—for the atmosphere and for its inefficient system, and I knew I simply couldn’t continue college past a bachelor’s degree to get two master’s degrees (long story there, but that’s where I was headed) in order to teach college English and write professionally. I was done. I was miserable. I was lost. It’s only now after having finally finished college that I have come to truly appreciate the experience for what it taught me and how it helped me grow.

After realizing I didn’t want to continue the path to becoming a full-time English professor in this liberal society, I prayed (a lot), and I looked to different avenues. I made an alternate plan to apply for work at a local publishing company after graduation, but then COVID happened. The company went on a hiring freeze. Great. I scoured the internet for job openings in editing, tutoring, and copywriting, and by the grace of God, I found a company that was hiring part-time tutors. The future is still uncertain, but all of my searching and pain and misery and growth has helped me grasp a simple concept that I hadn’t realized I didn’t truly “get” until I went through something difficult: trust God.

Sometimes, we don’t truly understand a concept or truth until we have no other choice but to embrace it head on. C.S. Lewis once said that “God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way.” Of course, having grown up in church, I’ve always known we should trust in God to guide us through life, but somehow, I’d formed my own contingency plans for everything to get where I wanted and expected everything to work out as I planned—until it didn’t. I can look back now at all those moments I was worried and miserable and exhausted to my core and understand that God let me go through those things to teach me that no matter what happens in my life, I still need to trust in Him and let Him take the reigns of my life, that I need to believe it’s okay when things don’t go my way, that if something tragic happens, I am going to make it as long as I trust in Him.

I still wonder why things happen sometimes. But now I understand that I am not alone in whatever trial I’m going through. Whatever happens—no matter what happens—I can rest in the assurance I have in Jesus. It’s okay to be not okay. It’s okay to wonder about why things happen, because in those moments, God fills me with His Peace and whispers, “trust me,” and He draws me closer to Him than I’ve been before.

Season of Giving

Today is a day of giving—giving to others to support them and build up our communities. That’s what “giving Tuesday” is about. We seek to build a more generous and caring world. Unfortunately, this is in direct conflict with human nature, which seeks to gain material things for the self and neglects the needs of others. Of course, it is the Spirit of God within us that helps us overcome our selfish nature and give to others. You know how when you’re a kid, and you’re really excited about getting things on Christmas morning, but when you get older, somehow that aspect isn’t as important anymore? As we mature, we naturally (hopefully) come to understand and embrace the concept of giving to others rather than getting. Case in point: yours truly.

8-year-old me was obsessed with presents and sneaking a peek before Christmas at the toys my parents bought me that they had hid in the corner of their bedroom closet.

“For shame, Caitlin, had you no self-control?” you might wonder.

And, no, I did not. I was eight, and I remember specifically asking for a basketball for Christmas so I could dribble it on our back patio (why I’ll never know since I’ve never been drawn to sports or even remotely coordinated in that area). 8-year-old me was anxious—nay, ecstatic at the thought of opening up my gift, wondering whether my parents had agreed to meet my request. I was, admittedly, a greedy little child. As I pulled back the paper hiding my special gift in the corner of my parent’s closet, I gazed with glazed over eyes at the bright orange orb with black stripes. I imagine my glee resembled that of the European conquerors when they came to Central America in the 1500s in search of gold.

“Behold! This brass, shiny object is more beautiful than chainmail sparkling in the moonlight! I must have it!”

But alas! My pleasure at the sight of the brand-new basketball in my parents’ closet was short-lived when my sister (the fiend!) stomped into sight and called my name, bringing attention to my clandestine meeting with my gift to our mother’s attention. Though I still unwrapped the basketball on Christmas morning, I never again sneaked a peek at my Christmas gifts. Once, I cared only about what I would get for Christmas. Naturally, the older I became, the more invested in others I became.

You see, my sister and I have a stocking stuffer tradition. While some families have always stuffed stockings and opened them on Christmas morning, this has never been a tradition in my household until my sister and I decided to try it two years ago. It has become a challenge each year to come up with small gifts (some practical, some cutesy) to fill up each stocking, but the real delight isn’t in finding out what each of us received in our stocking—it’s in seeing each other’s delight at what we put in each other’s stocking. In short, it’s about giving, of which I learned the joy with experience as I got older and began to invest in others.

Giving requires us to think about others more than ourselves. What does so-and-so want? What do they need? What would make them happy? And then we give to them whatever fits into those categories, be it quality time or a special gift of sentimental value. Giving trains our naturally selfish minds to think less about ourselves. The more we give, the easier it becomes. The more we give, the more we reflect Christ.

After all, He gave His life so that we might have life and have it more abundantly. But He didn’t die on a cross and rise again so that we could only invest in ourselves and in our life on earth. Christmas is a season of giving to others, yes, but I believe it is also a season to remember why we give and what we must give back to Him.

There’s a popular Christian song that says, “I give myself away.” Our lives are not our own. We give ourselves up to Him—our time, talents, and treasures—so that He can use us to glorify Him and help people come to know Him. For me, this concept solidified in my mind when I learned I must give up my dreams and desires to Him. We want what we want, right? Sometimes, we often think what God wants for us is something we won’t like, and so we stubbornly hold onto our wants. But the Kingdom of God is not full of people who only focus on their own desires and plans, and what God wants for us will give us more joy and fulfillment than we could ever imagine. When we learn to put our focus on what He wants and what others want and need, we become effective workers in the Kingdom of God.

“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” ~2 Corinthians 9:7

Five Things to Be Thankful for in 2020

It’s difficult to feel thankful when your year has been full of disappointments and heartbreak.

COVID isn’t the only thing that has taken people’s lives this year. Many have lost loved ones to violence, cancer, heart disease, and car accidents. Strict lockdowns due to coronavirus restrictions are keeping families apart and have canceled many church services and events. This has been a tumultuous year, but it is especially important to give thanks during times of trouble to remind us that we are still a blessed people.

In November, many churchgoers often recount the things that have happened to them or the people in their lives that they are thankful for. Even though 2020 has been less than stellar, I think it’s fitting that we recount our own blessings in spite of all the devil has thrown at us this year. So, here are five things we can be thankful for in 2020.

1. Quality Time

How many have spent a lot of time with family members or roommates this year because you’re working from home or are going to school online? I certainly have, and it’s been both a blessing and a…well, it’s been memorable to say the least! My family and I are often tired of each other’s presence when we’re the only people each of us ever spend time with these days, but it isn’t something anyone should take for granted. For many people, work, school, and special events have taken their attention away from quality time with family, but 2020 has allowed us to be with our parents, siblings, or roommates more and (hopefully) helped us come to appreciate more time to chat and eat dinner with loved ones.

We’ve also had more quality time to work on our relationship with God. He is the most important One in our lives, but it is easy for our jobs and schoolwork to distract us from spending enough time with Him. I know that since the lockdowns began, I’ve had much more time to plan out time spent studying His Word and more time in the mornings or throughout my day to pray. Prayer is essential to our walk with God, and I’m certainly thankful for more time with Him this year to work on my relationship with Him and grow spiritually.

2. A Slower Pace

Before 2020, things were go-go-go 24/7 for 365 days of the year for many of us. Once lockdowns began in March and school moved online and businesses sent employees home to work and church services went online and church and community leaders canceled events, life really s l o w e d down. I began to miss going places and doing things—well, as often as I used to, which wasn’t very often for this introvert.

When we speak of a time with a slower pace, many minds go to a good fifty years ago and perhaps much further back than that. We think of a time when people weren’t rushing everywhere, whether to work or social events or school, weren’t home late after attending meetings or shopping, weren’t always busy with thinking of the next school event or the next work meeting or the next convention or the next big service to plan. For many of us, and for me especially, 2020 fits that criteria of a slower pace, and it’s given us the ability to appreciate other things in life that we were perhaps too busy to notice before. Things like an extra hour or two in the evenings to relax and read a book. Things like more time on the weekends to clean or plan an activity at home with your children. Things like time to deep clean the house or prepare an intricate meal every evening. Things for which we were often too busy before 2020.

3. Church

Church is essential, but in 2020, the enemy has targeted the church more specifically this year with lockdowns and orders that claim the church isn’t essential and that congregants must only meet for church virtually. Of course, I am very thankful for the technology we have to meet online and hear our ministers preach a Word from the Lord through our screens. We’re blessed to be able to continue having church and sharing our online services with others even if it isn’t in person. However, we cannot forsake the assembling of ourselves together (see Hebrews 10:25). Thankfully, many churches have been able to meet again in person throughout this year, even if it’s been sporadic, and churches have become very creative with finding ways to meet in person, whether it’s in the church parking lot or in someone’s yard. Online church simply is not the same and is not sufficient for the body of Christ. I am tremendously thankful for the people of God this year and for being able to meet in person to hear from the Lord and worship with fellow believers in Christ. If 2020 has reminded us of anything, it’s that we must never take the church for granted.

4. That God is Our Healer

The COVID epidemic has reminded many people this year of how frail and fragile human life is. Our lives are like a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away (see James 4:14). We can get sick, and we can die, but God can never die. He lives forever and has all power, and amazingly, He loves us enough to use His power to heal our fragile, earthly bodies and extend our lives here on earth so we can spend more time with loved ones and fulfill His Purpose for us. He also loves us enough to free us from our earthly burdens if He chooses and let us go into our rest before the trumpet sounds and we rise again to meet Him in the sky. Our lives are in His hands. This year, I am thankful that He has healed so many from COVID, including myself and my family, and from other diseases and injuries. Our human frailties may be discouraging, but let them instead be a reminder of how great our God is, for He has no frailties!

5. His Promises

The promises of the Lord are yes and amen. Whatever He says He will do, rest assured that He will do it. He has promised that He will never leave nor forsake us (see Hebrews 13:5), that the seasons and day and night would always be while the earth remains (see Genesis 8:22), that He will supply all our needs (see Philippians 4:19), that His grace is sufficient for us (see 2 Corinthians 12:9), that when He sets us free we are free indeed (see 8:36), and that we have eternal life through Christ (Titus 1:2). His promises are forever because His Word is forever, and I am thankful after all the turmoil of this year that we still have hope in Jesus!

No matter what unpleasant surprises 2020 may have brought you, dear reader, I hope you can still find within yourself the ability to thank God for His promises and blessings. God truly has blessed His people, and we are lucky each day to wake up and have another day to live for Him and spend time with the loved ones He has placed in our lives.