Straight from an Intentional Heart
By Lisa Elliott
Often during the Christmas season, amid with all the hustle and bustle that goes with deliberating, shopping, purchasing, and returning Christmas presents, it’s easy to lose sight of Jesus’ Christmas presence. And in so doing, we forfeit the greatest gift of all. If we’re not intentional about setting apart time with the Lord, the “reason for the season”, something or someone else will inevitably take the time from us. In case you haven’t noticed, “Someday” never appears on the calendar. So, I thought I’d help you be intentional about practicing His Christmas presence with my own rendition of the old familiar, festive tune and gift you with, The 12 days of Christmas Challenge” (to be used pre or post-Christmas):
On the 1st day of Christmas…delight. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart (Ps. 37:4).
- Make it a date! To delight in someone means to experience great joy and pleasure in his or her presence. Obligation is opportunity with the joy sucked out. So turn your time with the Lover of your soul into a time you look forward to.
- Designate a God-space – Choose a comfortable chair or a favourite location to spend time with the Lord
- Create ambiance – Open your Bible as you curl up with a warm blanket and your favourite hot drink. Light a candle, and play some soft worship music.
On the 2nd day of Christmas…focus. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil (Prov. 4:26-27)
- Remove distractions: unplug your phone, turn off the radio and television, pull the blinds.
- Take 15 minutes to de-clutter your quiet time space, tidy up the kitchen, or whatever needs attention so you can give God your undivided attention.
- Set a basket by the place where you plan to meet with the Lord and include in it: Bible, devotional book, journal, pen, paper, highlighters, Kleenex, day planner.
- Make a worry list – Write down anything that distracts you as you focus on God’s Word. For example, “Put roast in oven at 3:00.” Out of mind and onto paper!
On the 3rd day of Christmas…meditate. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful (Joshua 1:8).
- Read a passage of Scripture. Stop reading when something stands out at you.
- Ask: What does it say? What does it mean? What does it mean to me?
- Commit this particular verse or passage to memory.
On the 4th day of Christmas…be honest. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge (Ps. 62:8).
- Prayer walk
- Fast and pray
- Pray God’s Word
- Purchase a journal. Make the first journal entry your own psalm in the form of a letter to the Lord. Express your personal concerns, heartaches, sorrows, fears, or any present circumstance or challenge you are facing. Once you’ve got that all out of your system, list some of your joys, hopes, dreams and praise.
On the 5th day of Christmas…listen. He wakens me morning to morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught (Is 50:4b). Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Is. 30:21).
- Choose any book of the Bible and read it in one sitting.
- Take note of and highlight words, verses, or entire passages that stand out to you.
- Record any question you need answered, truth to absorb, promise to claim, instruction to heed, command to obey or challenge to face with His help.
On the 6th day of Christmas…linger. Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! (Is. 30:18) Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him (Ps. 37:7)
- Once you’ve enjoyed some time in the Word and in prayer, ask God if there is anything He’d like to add. You may be done speaking, but He might have more to say!
- Turn your prayer into a two-way conversation. For example: God: Write the passage that strikes you in your own words. You: Write down your response to His Word.
- Record whatever action you need to do as a result of your conversation.
On the 7th day of Christmas…get personal. You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain…For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, Your eyes saw my unformed body; How precious to me are your thoughts, God! when I awake, I am still with you. (Ps. 139)
- Read Psalm 139 or another passage of Scripture that has personal meaning to you and personalize it. Insert your name and apply it to a specific situation you’re facing.
On the 8th day of Christmas…watch. He richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment (1 Tim. 6:17). Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, (Js. 1:17).
- Watch for and record any evidence of God’s presence around you: conversations, joy-nuggets, creation, occurrences, encounters, blessings, special or significant moments.
On the 9th day of Christmas…reflect. This I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lam.3:19-26)
- Make a timeline of your faith journey. Mark highs and lows and significant events. Record all the ways you’ve seen and experienced God’s faithfulness throughout your life from birth to today. Ask: 1) What has God done in the past? These things I recall 2) What does He want to do? Therefore I have hope 3) What is He doing? Great IS His Faithfulness. Remember: His mercies are new every morning!
On the 10th day of Christmas…praise. He inhabits the praise of His people (Ps. 22:3). Let everything that has breath praise the Lord (Ps. 150:6). Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise (Ps. 100:4).
- Begin a joy journal today!
- Make a list of all the things, people, or circumstances you have to be thankful for.
On the 11th day of Christmas…“be”. Be still and know that I am God (Ps. 46:10).
- Make a “to NOT do list (and don’t forget to check it twice!)
On the 12th day of Christmas…practice His Christmas presence! Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:22-25)
- Decide on something you can do today to put God’s Word to practice.
- Consider and prayerfully choose a verse you could focus on this coming New Year.
Merry Christmas… Straight from the Heart
About this Contributor:
Lisa Elliott is an inspirational speaker and award-winning author of The Ben Ripple and Dancing in the Rain. Additionally, she has written articles for Just Between Us Magazine and devotionals for theStory. She and her pastor-husband, David, have four children (3 on earth, 1 in heaven) and serve the Lord together in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
To book Lisa for a weekend retreat or day conference contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org