A Pleasing Aroma

Happy Thanksgiving!

Isn’t it interesting how we associate certain aromas with specific times of the year? Pumpkin spice signals a season of thankfulness; cinnamon, pine, and peppermint usher in the season of giving.

pleasing aroma

Some smells are so lovely and inviting we automatically inhale deeply as soon as we detect them. (Yes, Starbucks, I’m talking to you!) Others are, shall we say…disgusting! Within nanoseconds of detection, windows go up, recycled air is blasted, hands cover nose, and we scream, “Skunk!”

Smells are powerful triggers, aren’t they? They can cause a visceral reaction instantaneously which makes it extremely important that we be aware of our own aromatic contribution to our surroundings.

Therefore, it is with much compassion as your sister in the Lord that I must tell you—and I mean this in the nicest of ways: You smell!

It’s true.

You have a distinct spiritual scent that follows you wherever you go. Don’t believe me? It’s true. The apostle Paul explained this concept to the church in Corinth:

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.” (2 Cor. 2:14-16a)

In other words, to God, his children smell pretty amazing. To those being saved, we are an aroma that brings life. To those who are perishing, we reek of death.

As Paul continued, “Who is equal to such a task?” (2 Cor. 2:16b)

It’s a profound truth and responsibility that I never considered before. Some will love our “scent” while others will hate it. And most importantly, their reaction has little to do with me, and everything to do with Christ in me.

Our spirits have a sense of smell. Who knew?!

When you carefully consider this concept, it makes sense. Haven’t there been times when you just met someone or passed a person in the store and you somehow knew they shared your faith?

What about the time you engaged the Starbucks barista in conversation, and you instinctively knew he was a Christ follower? Or the time you explained your engine noises to the mechanic while simultaneously realizing she was a fellow Believer?

I’ve always assumed it was “something in my spirit” that recognized the connection, but I never considered what it was. Now, I know: My spirit has a sense of smell.

I’m not going off the deep end here—I promise. I’m simply using Paul’s analogy to help us think in spiritual terms about something we’ve all experienced: S.O.

You can think of spirit odor (S.O.) like body odor (B.O.)—it’s not as obvious to us as it is to those around us. And the aroma of our spirit depends a lot on where we’ve spent our time.

Let that sink in for a moment: We carry the smell of our environment with us wherever we go—physically and spiritually.

As a little girl, when I spent time with my chain-smoking Nana and Papa, you would know it as soon as I walked into the room, because I smelled like I’d been with them.

Recently, our teenage son was tending our friends’ chickens while they were out of town. After spending quality time in the coop to refill their food and water, surrounded by the little cluckers, he smelled just like them…all the way home!

Similarly, when we spend time in the presence of the Lord, we begin to “smell” like Him, too. It’s not a physical smell, but a spiritual aroma. We smell different than we did before, and it’s pretty distinct.

I guess you could say that we smell out of this world!

Detectable only in the spiritual realm, our aroma identifies us as having been with Christ.

As Alvin L. Reid says in his new book Sharing Jesus {without freaking out}, “As we live daily, bearing the fruit of the Spirit in front of others, we become the aroma of Christ to those we encounter.”

Now, here’s what’s interesting: According to Paul, the exact same aroma that smells like LIFE to some will reek of DEATH to others.

This was hard for me to wrap my brain around until I thought of our traditional main meal on Thanksgiving Day. Depending on your turkey tradition and what time zone you live in, it’s very possible that you’ll start smelling the turkey at some point during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. There’s nothing quite like the aroma of turkey on Thanksgiving Day is there? Unless, of course, you are a Vegetarian or Vegan. I’m guessing that if you’re one of the aforementioned noncarnivores, the aroma of turkey is probably more like a stench and you’d rather not smell it. Am I right? And what if it permeates your clothes and you go home smelling like Thanksgiving dinner. For some, this is perfectly welcome, and for others, the coats immediately hang outside to air out.

So, back to Paul’s statement: the exact same aroma that smells like LIFE to some will reek of DEATH to others.

This could be difficult—especially when you’re surrounded by those you love who do not share your faith. And it’s exacerbated during the holiday season.

Have you experienced high levels of stress or predictable conflict with someone for no tangible reason? Like every time you’re together something comes up and boom! Stress. Anger. Resentment. Conflict.

What if their reaction to you has nothing to do with you personally?

What if they are reacting to the pleasing aroma of Christ in you—only it’s not so pleasing to them. In fact, in their experience, you stink…not physically, but something in their spirit can’t handle your smell.

And… This is the reason you are reading this devotional today… Right now…

What would happen if, instead of taking the behavior and/or comments personally, you recognize the reaction for what it is. Choose not to be offended. Pray for their eyes to be opened to the truth. And turn to God who loves your spiritual scent.

During this holiday season, it’s critical that we remember two important truths:

  1. We cannot control whether or not others like our spiritual aroma, BUT…
  2. We can control what—and who—we smell like.

Remember: When you walk closely with the Lord, you will be “the pleasing aroma of Christ” both to Him and those who love to spend time with Him.

Learning the Art of Humility

This past month I have spent some time reflecting on exactly what humility means. How does it apply scripturally and in my walk with the Lord. The Lord laid some heartfelt information on my heart.

art of humility

For example, did you know that humility means the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance. Some may say that being humble is a weakness, but that is so wrong. Moses was said to be one of the most humble men on the earth (Numbers 12:3). God does not always call on those who are qualified, he calls on those who he chooses and are humble and teachable. They are willing to lay down their life to do his work. If you read in the bible you will see over and over, God using those you would least expect to make the biggest movements.

But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6

Becoming Humble

So many of us have a great calling on our lives, but we can become impatient and we don’t humble ourselves. God’s timing is usually not the same as our timing. You might want to get things started sooner, but if God doesn’t think it is time, it won’t happen. Look at Esther, she had a year of preparations before she was allowed to go to the king. That is 12 months, she went through the process of purifying. In those months she became stronger, and God used her to save her people from the wicked Haman’s evil plot (Esther 8). If she would have went at say month one, would the outcome have been different?

If you are asking yourself how do you become humble, it is simple. Remain teachable, be kind to others, do not be boastful, seek guidance from the Lord for your path in life, and be grateful.
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 1 Peter 5:6

how to be humble

If we open up our hearts, learn to become humble, God can use us for his works. If you are feeling God is calling you to do something that you feel less than qualified, just trust and allow him to be your trainer. In the Bible you can read over and over he uses those who are humble to do his greatest works! We have to have our hearts wide open for God to step in and use us for his works. If we are so tied up in our own doings, he can not use us for what he has called us to do. It makes you dig deep and really look in to see if you are allowing God to use you, if you are called.

Lord, I thank you for your unconditional love and favor. I pray that you can help me humble myself before you. I pray that you can show me the areas that I need to work on, to become more humble. I thank you for calling me to follow you, and I thank you for your strength and love. Lord if you have a work that you are wanting me to do, I pray I can listen and hear your voice that will guide me.

In Awe,

When Faith is Hard to Come By

Faith can sometimes be hard to come by. It’s hard to have faith when our prayers seem to go unanswered. When our children suffer from long term illness that God doesn’t heal. When we don’t understand why.

The truth is that I used to call my own faith into question when God didn’t heal my daughter of autism. It truly shook my faith and made me question God and His goodness. I simply (honestly) didn’t understand why God would choose not to heal her of her suffering.

When Faith is Hard to Come By

Over the years, though, I’ve learned some things about God and our faith. And while I’m certainly no expert, I’ll share with you my thoughts.

Thoughts on Faith

  1. God knows better than we do. We can rest assured that, no matter what we think is best, God knows what’s best for each of us. Even though we honestly, sincerely believe what we want is good (even best) in a particular situation, only God truly knows best.
  2. Is it really faith if we only trust God when things go our way? You know, it’s easy to get along with people when they do what we want them to do, isn’t it? It’s easy to love our children, get along with our spouses or co-workers, and have faith in God when things are going along nicely for us. What isn’t so easy, though, is believing in God’s love and goodness when He doesn’t do what we want Him to do. Yet if we truly do have faith in God, we must have it whether or not we understand or agree with God’s plan for our lives.
  3. God’s grace is sufficient in all circumstances. Paul asked God to remove his “thorn in the flesh.” In fact, he said he pleaded with God three times to remove it. Yet God’s response was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” So how did Paul respond? This way: “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
  4. If we knew God’s plans for us, then faith wouldn’t be required. If things always went along as we wanted them to, according to our own plans, we might easily begin to think that we have everything under control and that we don’t need God in our lives.

Choose to Have Faith

Choose Faith

I have to be honest and say that, if God were willing, I would have Him heal my daughter right now. However, I can also honestly say that my faith in God does not depend on His healing her. I choose to have faith in God and to believe in His goodness and His perfect plan for my daughter’s life whether or not He heals her. I choose to have faith.

How Rooted in Faith are You?

Faith is a gift given that must be nurtured.  Without proper nourishment, our faith will never be rooted deep enough to withstand what the devil throws at us.

Since the devil’s main objective is to rid us of our faith and destroy us for eternity, we would do well to focus on growing our faith and making sure it is properly rooted.

Rooted in Faith

To grow our faith properly we need to know on what kind of soil our “seed of faith” has landed, move it if necessary, then prepare and cultivate that soil for the seed to take root properly and grow!  Jesus uses the Parable of the Sower to help us understand this.

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up.

Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had not moisture.

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.

Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.
Luke 8:5-8

Part of understanding what kind of soil we have is to understand where we are trying to plant our faith seed.  Faith is believing in the unseen, but too many times we put our faith in the wrong things that we can see.


We might put our faith in the people who shared Christ with us.  We put them on a pedestal, doing what they do, and looking to them to help steer our spiritual lives.  This person might even be a great Christian author, preacher, or speaker.

We must be careful of this and we must encourage those in our lives not to put us or anyone else on a pedestal in this way.  Why?  Because we are all imperfect and need Christ.  When the person we have put our faith in inevitably does something wrong, instead of working to bring them back, we may become disenchanted or confused and crushed in our faith.

The devil would prefer we fix our eyes on a person rather than Christ because then he can quickly snatch our faith away.

“Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.”
Luke 8:12

We should only fix our faith on Christ and His Word, realizing that he alone is perfect and will never fail us.


There is an idea floating around that once we turn our lives to Christ and follow Him the blessings will flow.  Oh, dear sister, blessing do flow, but not always in the earthly, physical sense.

Our blessings come from heaven and an eternal perspective. Christ is able to bring us peace and joy in the most difficult of circumstances, when it makes no earthly sense to have peace or joy.  He gifts us courage to stand up for Him and what is right, in the face of opposition.  Christ even provides for us in the ways we need, when finances are beyond slim.

Jesus, many times, reminds us that we should not focus on the things of this world that will bring us comfort, but on the Lord who will bring us eternal comfort.  If we tie our faith to our earthly blessings, our faith will quickly be squelched when financial hard times come.

“The seed that fell among the thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.”
Luke 8:14

Let’s not let our faith be choked out by the worries of this life, but allow our faith to mature by giving these worries to Christ and letting Him provide for us and mature our faith in the process.


When health starts to deteriorate, we often see one of two things happen:

  • People lose their faith or
  • People inspire others by their faith.

We all understand that one day we will pass away. Satan will try to use this, and any situation, to make us feel like God has let us down.  If our faith is deeply rooted, we can eventually overcome this lie with the truth.  But if our faith isn’t rooted in the truth, we will fall for the devil’s lies.

How to grow deep roots

Maybe there is another area of your life than those mentioned above in which the devil is more likely to attack.  If so, take time to do the following things:

  • Dig into the Scriptures
  • Write down the truths that correlate to the area where you need to grow
  • Memorize those Scriptures so you can defend yourself against Satan’s attacks
  • Persevere through attacks and difficult times by holding to these truths and encouraging others in their faith

When Jesus spoke the Parable of the Sower, he shared this same recipe for deep rooted faith.

“But the seed on good soils stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”
Luke 8:15

Nurture faith

A Challenge for You

Take some time to read over this parable and figure out where your “seed of faith” has fallen.  If the “seed of faith” is not taking root in the good soil then start prepping your heart to be good soil.  Once you’ve prepped it, continue to cultivate it.  Just like any garden, the soil, the seeds and the plants need continual nurturing.

The Joy God Promises

Does it mean I’m not a Christian if I’m suffering from depression? If I lack joy?

This month’s topic is joy. As I considered what it means to have joy, I began to think back on the years in my life when joy was hard to come by. I dealt with depression off and on for many years, and as if I wasn’t already dealing with enough, I also worried that maybe I wasn’t a Christian (or at least I wasn’t a “good” Christian) if I was depressed. I mean, Christians are supposed to be happy all the time, right? Doesn’t God promise us joy right there in the Bible? So what’s wrong with me? How can I possibly be depressed if God has promised me joy?

Romans 15: 12-13 says:

12 And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.”
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God promises joy

First, you need to know that Christians can (and do!) suffer from depression just like anyone else. It’s true that we have hope for the future because of our salvation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we will always be happy or that we can force ourselves to feel happy. That we’ll never get depressed. That we’ll always smile and be cheerful and content with our circumstances. We live in a world that is imperfect, and as long as we live in this world, we have to deal with the effects of imperfection.

Many years ago, I went through a very hard time. My first child, now age 21, was diagnosed with severe autism. For about a year after that, I was extremely depressed. The only reason I was willing to keep on living was because I knew that my child needed me. Life didn’t seem worth living any more. I still had a husband who loved me and who took wonderful care of me and our child. I still had a place to live and plenty of food to eat and clothes to wear. But none of it seemed to matter very much any more.

I wanted to care. I wanted to feel happy. I wanted to have joy. But I didn’t know how.

I was ashamed

I was ashamed to admit how depressed I was to anyone else. I was afraid they would think I wasn’t a Christian if I was depressed. I was afraid my husband would think I didn’t love him or that I didn’t appreciate how he worked so hard to take good care of us. I was afraid the people at church would look down on me. I was afraid God would be disappointed in me. I was afraid that, if I admitted I was depressed, I would then be obligated to do something to get better, and I had no idea what to do.

hope for joy

One day I gave in and decided to seek out help. It was one of the best things I ever did for myself and my family! I saw a doctor and tried taking medication. It took some time, but after a couple of tries, we found one that worked well for me. (Yes, it’s ok for Christians to take medication to treat depression when we need it! Depression is often caused by a chemical imbalance, and it may be necessary for a few months or even years to take medication to get things back in balance. We don’t hesitate to take medications for other illnesses, and we shouldn’t feel guilty for taking medication for depression either.) I also saw a Christian counselor who helped me learn better ways to deal with stress. It wasn’t immediate, but I began to feel better and eventually felt like myself again!

I learned to feel joy again

All these years later, I can truly say that I no longer suffer from depression. I do have “down” days now and then, but I no longer feel hopeless and helpless. I can (on most days!) sincerely say that I feel the joy I once lacked. The joy that God promises us in the Bible. Through those years of depression, I learned a lot about relying on God, being willing to seek out help when I need it, being honest with myself and my family, taking medication when needed, not being so hard on myself, and taking better care of myself. I learned to hang in there during the hard times and to allow myself to feel happiness without guilt during the good times. I learned to feel joy again.

Character Quality: Articulate

Character Quality: Articulate with {free} coloring page.

Character Quality: Articulate


It is simply not enough to know what we believe, we must be able to communicate our convictions, our passions, and why we believe to others. Communicating is key to spreading the good news of Jesus Christ to others. The message of the cross is simple and life saving.

There are many things that we need to be able to communicate to others. Each of us has been given a voice. We need to use that voice to speak up. We need to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. We need to speak up for what is right. We need to speak up for truth, mercy, and honesty.

It can be scary to speak up, to take a stand, to interject our voice into a circumstance. It can be intimidating to dare to suggest forgiveness or even justice, to uphold truth and righteousness.

Teaching our kids to speak at appropriate times, with insight and intelligence should be a priority. Training them to listen first before asking questions and to think before they speak is an important part of child discipleship. It is imperative that our kids practice the art of conversation and even debate. They need to witness hearty disagreements, watch individuals defend their perspectives and opinions, and yet still love each other and keep the relationship intact.

The best way I’ve found to achieve the goal of preparing your child for conversations, confrontations, and conflicts is…drum roll please…everyday interaction. Most people would probably say that the flippant and random conversations they have with their children are pretty meaningless. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Whenever you engage with your child in conversation, you are teaching them. Every conversation they witness, they are studying and learning the rules of this complicated art form. They are learning from what they are personally involved in with your family along with what they are watching on TV and the movies.

So here’s yet another reason to make those family dinners a reality. It’s not just mealtime—nourishment for the body, but it is also nourishment for the mind and soul. It’s an opportunity to discuss the day, current events, and ideas. Some of these conversations will happen naturally, but others will take more work with intentional questions and planned topics.

Becoming articulate is a life-long skill that is to be constantly cultivated. The basics should be taught at home within the context of family all through the day and of course around the table.

Why do your children ask you a million questions? Because when they watch conversations and they notice that questions are the tools adults use to continue communicating. They are merely experimenting with what they have observed when they ask you questions. If you look them in the eyes and really listen to them, guess what? They will practice that also.

It is important for our kids to hear good questions, learn body language and good eye contact. But our kids are also listening to what we are talking about. What do we say? What are the subjects of our conversations? What is important to us? Do you major on the minors or do we talk about things that really matter? Being able to articulate our beliefs, ideas, opinions, and questions is very important. Our kids need to learn how to do this, and you are their example—hopefully life’s best teacher.

{Just click on the image below to download your free coloring page for your personal use.}

Character Quality: Articulate with {free} coloring page.

Character Quality: Endurance

Character Quality: Endurance

Character Quality: Endurance


As the forerunner of Christ, his purpose was clear. As prophesized by Isaiah in the Old Testament John the Baptist was to, “prepare the way of the Lord.” John’s life purpose was to point the people to Christ. At first he didn’t know who the Christ was.

I think I could argue that it should have been easier for John. He was focused on his task, he sacrificed for it; he was faithful in his actions. But none of it was easy. John lived in the wilderness. The people came to see him there to hear him preach. He spoke the truth and called his audience to repentance. The leaders were critical of him, but he continued on. He endured.

Then when Jesus, the Christ came to be baptized, John recognized him as the Lamb of God and declared Him to be the one to “take away the sin of the world.” Humbly he baptized Jesus and then encouraged his disciples to follow Him.

But just because Jesus appeared didn’t mean that John disappeared. John continued on in his ministry of declaring truth. He continued to teach in the wilderness. His purpose hadn’t changed. He kept on teaching the people about their need for Christ.

John endured the wilderness, its heat and loneliness. He endured criticism from the religious elite. He endured because he kept his focus clear and sharp. He didn’t waiver. He didn’t compromise. He didn’t relent. He set his mind. He focused and no matter what happened, he continued to fulfill the charge given him as the voice calling in the wilderness. After he had baptized Jesus, he told his followers to follow Jesus he continued to stand upon the truth. He confronted.

We are not called to quick, easy or convenient. We are called to focus and go forward faithfully no matter what. We, like John, must keep our eyes focused on Christ. We must not allow the distractions of everyday, the mundane responsibilities, the full schedules to blur our focus. In doing so we will face challenges and difficulties; these we much endure. Our focus will grant us the ability to endure as we allow the power of the Holy Spirit and the peace which transcends all understanding to permeate our words and actions.

{Simply click the image below to download your free coloring page.}

Character Quality: Endurance

Reflecting on Kenya – Part 2

Reflecting on Kenya - Part 2

Reflecting on Kenya – Part 2

This post is the continuation of Reflecting on Kenya – Part 1.  If you haven’t read it please begin there.

We had five and a half hours in Detroit before our overnight flight to Amsterdam. That’s a long time in the best of circumstances, longer in not-so-good ones. I continued to lap the walking sidewalk intermittently praying and singing through my favorite hymns. It was the only way I knew to keep my mind from spinning out of control. I couldn’t stop the tears from falling; I didn’t try too. Though surrounded by crowds of people hurrying to various destinations, I didn’t see them; they didn’t see me.

Finally it was time to board the plane that would take me across the pond, thousands of miles away from my daughter’s side. We were supposed to be together, experiencing this mission trip together, laughing, bonding. I thought about not continuing on the trip, of just going home. I really just wanted to go home.

The two men leading the group must have heard my thoughts. They encouraged me to stay with the group, to go with the team to Kenya. “God has a plan,” they said. So instead of booking a flight home, I gathered my carry-on luggage, stood in line, and took my seat. I was headed to Kenya without my daughter for reasons I didn’t understand. My mind, tempted to place blame, unable to make sense out of the days events, exhausted from it all, kept singing, “Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go….”

I sat down on the plane and begin softly crying again. A stranger sat in Molly’s seat beside me. This is going to be a long flight, I thought, longer than I could have anticipated. Sleep didn’t visit me. Unable to read or journal or watch a movie, I continued to pray intermittently, trying to intentionally put my trust in God, setting my mind on things above.

Jumping ahead, we arrived safely in Kenya. The first two days without Molly were the hardest ones. A rush of emotion surprised me when we were walking into the main compound. I began to cry. I missed Molly being with me, being my roomie.

The hardest day was when we finally talked on the phone. I was in Kenya and she wasn’t coming. After getting an initial name spoken, I couldn’t say anything else, only sobs. Here, all of the pent-up emotion broke loose. I cried in Kenya. She cried at our house. Separately but together we cried. The main thing I wanted her to know I could only say slowly, “I never would have continued the trip if I hadn’t thought you were going to join me.”

“I know,” she whispered. “I miss you so much.”

In that conversation we encouraged each other. It was good to just hear her voice, to hear how God was growing her through this great disappointment. I reminded us both that God didn’t owe us an explanation and that we must not demand one, but rather that we had been given an opportunity to trust Him in our brokenness. I told her that I believe that our old enemy had been successful in stealing our time together, but that didn’t mean that we had to allow him to steal our joy or our determination to put our hope in God.

After my conversation with Molly, it was time for me to give myself permission to enjoy my time in Kenya. Before we talked I hadn’t allowed myself to enjoy anything because Molly wasn’t with me. Every time I caught myself relaxing or even smiling, I scolded myself for being insensitive to my daughter’s hurt.

Now it was time to lean into God, to enjoy and yes, even relax, to exhale. So I did. I took in the countryside, the scenery, the hospital, the patients, the smiles and waves, the songbirds, butterflies, and flowers. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” I couldn’t expect to make it through the trip, to contribute, to learn, or grow until I choose to focus on the joy of the Lord and allowed Him to be my strength.

Molly and I were finally reunited at the airport in Charlotte. She courageously came to welcome the team home. There were more tears, but actually more smiles and laughter. The reunion was sweet. Together again, we compared notes about all that God did. I showed her all the pictures and we exchanged stories of God’s faithfulness. Stay tuned for a summary of those next week.

In the meantime, remember this:

He is on His throne.

He is in control.

He is never surprised.

He knows.

He cares.

He is working on our behalf.

He is Faithful.

He alone is Worthy.

He is the Great Redeemer.

Praise His name!

Rachael Carman

Character Quality: Thoughtful


Character Quality: Thoughtful with {free} coloring page

Character Quality: Thoughtful

There are several examples in Scripture of gift-giving. Elijah wanted to thank the Shunamite woman after she blessed him by adding a room for the prophet. Mary brought an alabaster jar of expensive nard to anoint the Lord Jesus. She gave Him her best, to honor him.

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh are probably the three most well-known gifts in the Bible. And they are part of the central story of the Bible when God gives mankind the greatest gift of all time, His Son. The whole story is full of miracles, full of grace, full of love. The story is for the whole world.

Here’s a recap. In the fullness of time, the God who exists outside of time interjected Himself into time. An angel appeared to Mary who, even as a young girl, had found favor in the sight of God. He extended her an opportunity to carry His Son, to be the mother of Jesus. She asked a logistical question and then responded humbly, “May it be unto me as you have said.”

Mary was found to be with child, which was a disgrace since she and Joseph were only betrothed, not actually married. As the whispers around town multiplied, the Roman government issued a decree that all the people should be taxed. Imagine that, God used taxation for His glorious plan.

Joseph and Mary left their hometown, their families, everything familiar, and the whispers to begin their journey to the city of David. Along the way God bonded them as they depended on each other during the arduous journey.

They arrived in Bethlehem just in time for Jesus’ birth. With no reservations and no rooms available at the local inns, they welcomed the Savior of the world in a humble stable. God sent an affirmation of His blessing on them and His Son by way of a star, which shinned brightly over the small town and the place of His birth.

Just as the Angel had visited Mary and then Joseph, Angels announced Jesus’ birth in the countryside to the shepherds. In the darkness of night, they heralded His arrival and invited the shepherds to visit the baby King. The shepherds didn’t have anything tangible to bring to the child or His parents, but they worshipped Him on bended knee.

Far away in the East, there were Magi who studied the stars and noticed a new one. Seeking to understand, to make sense of the new star, they sought answers. Through study they found prophecies from the Old Testament that the Messiah, a King would be announced by a star. Convinced that the star they had noticed was the star, they traveled to see the King.

But they didn’t come empty handed. They came bearing gifts, expensive gifts, practical gifts, thoughtful gifts. They brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts have a variety of implications and uses. Some of them are medical. Frankincense for example is used for arthritis, but I don’t think that was a concern in this situation. Myrrh was traditionally used in preparation for burial. Gold of course has a variety of uses and high value. We don’t know why each of these three gifts were chosen, but we do know that they were gifts that would traditionally be given to royalty. These gifts were an acknowledgement and affirmation of who Jesus is, the King of kings.

It is important to train our children to be thoughtful and to give thoughtfully. This means that we model our giving as we tithe and as we give to others. We should give as unto the same King as the Magi gave, giving our best. We shouldn’t give in a stingy way or in a resentful way or in a reluctant way. We should give generously as unto the Lord. When our children have opportunities to share and give we should help them to think of the other person. What might they enjoy? How would it honor God? All of our gift giving should honor Him who alone is Worthy.

(Tradition has numbered the ‘wise men’ based on the three gifts, but we don’t actually know how many of them there were. We know more than one, but there could have been only two but certainly more than three is also possible. Additionally, there is debate on when the Magi arrived with their gifts. Timing is thought to be anywhere from almost immediately to a time which would have made Jesus two years of age. Neither of these issues is of eternal significance, but are important to know.)

{Simply click the image below to download your free coloring page.}

Character Quality: Thoughtful with {free} coloring page

Character Quality: Considerate

Character Quality: Considerate with {free} coloring page.

Character Quality: Considerate

Unnamed. Unknown. Unidentified. But not unimportant.

In II Kings 4:8-37 her story is recounted. Yes, her story. It is significant to note that women play a key role in God’s story. Women are not mere bystanders or extras, but rather strong, courageous, determined, and pivotal characters. They make decisions, choose sides, stand up, speak up, and lead. Women as wives, sisters, daughters, and friends influence at best, manipulate at worst.

The Shunammite woman is an example, though unnamed, of a strong woman at her best. She was married but childless. However she had clearly chosen against bitterness and had put her energies into serving others. It is evident in the story that she wasn’t self-centered. She had not allowed the fact that she had no children to drag her down into the pit of despair. She had moved on and chosen to go forward.

The biblical account says that the prophet Elisha and his servant Gehazi came through her area regularly. In response she, a ‘prominent women’, invited them to eat at her house. After some time she had an idea. Scripture simply states: “She said to her husband, ‘I perceive that this is a holy man of God passing by us continually. Please let us make a walled upper chamber…when he comes to us, he can turn in there.’”

Wow. She invited him in, recognized an ongoing need, formulated a solution, presented it to her husband who consented and then carried out her plan. The Shunammite woman was considerate of those around her. In this story she not only considered the needs of the prophet Elisha, but also the authority of her husband. She didn’t run ahead of him, but rather came under him as she boldly laid out her suggestion.

This is a powerful example of a woman who had tremendous influence and effect on her situation. Her act of consideration is a clear indication of her outward and even upward focus. She wasn’t thinking of herself, she wasn’t selfishly motivated. She was simply, purely responding to the prophet’s need of a place to rest. A simple need, a simple solution.

Often our ability to recognize the needs of others and respond to them is impeded by our own selfishness. We focus on what we want and we are unable to see the needs of others. Or we allow a past hurt or loss or disappointment cloud our view, we can’t see past our own pain. We lean into self, into loneliness, into despair. We miss opportunities to see and respond to others needs, opportunities that would bring healing to our own souls.

So, what is obstructing your view? What is it that you can’t seem to see past? What wounding or failure or let down? What is holding you hostage? We are all surrounded by needs. God has given us each other to meet them. Whether they are financial, emotional, material, or social. God has given us each other. Our needs go unmet when we choose to be inwardly focused instead of upwardly focused.

Being considerate is a deliberate choice to live with your eyes wide open to the need of others determined to respond. It means that we choose against allowing our enemy to discourage us into believing that we don’t matter, that we can’t make a difference. We do and we can and others are depending on us.

Let us be courageously considerate. Let us look around us for opportunities to honor God as we serve those He has put in our path.

{Simply click the image below to download your free coloring page.}

Character Quality: Considerate with {free} coloring page.