A Slueths Christmas

As a child I loved Christmas, more than most kids alive.

No gift a surprise, I knew ‘fore they arrived.

On top of Mom’s closet, in bags before bows,

in cupboards and drawers, in boxes under hose.

Up the stairs I would go, quiet as a mouse,

sleuthing the halls, I found ‘em ‘bout the house.

To date nights and parties my parents would go,

home alone I rummaged, brother in tow.

Sweaters I saw and snow skis for me,

make-up and jewelry filled me with glee.

T-shirts and tools, these aren’t for me,

sleuthing wasted on Dads cup of tea?

Trick me they tried after detecting my knack,

to find unwrapped presents at the drop of a hat.

They tried this new trick on one fortnight,

wrapping it all somewhere off site.

At night I would sneak when all were asleep,

un-wrapping so neatly and back so discreet.

You seem tired today, my mother would say,

not very surprised by your gifts today?

The secret I ‘ve kept and can now say,

is that a sleuths Christmas is longer than a day.

It starts at Thanksgiving when sales are underway,

and ends Christmas morning when it’s time to hit the hay.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Jodie StevensAt Christmas time we give gifts to one another to celebrate the ultimate one we have received, eternal life through our Savior Jesus Christ. It’s a gift so massive that nothing can contain it. It’s like a volcano that explodes with joy, its lava is love and out of it flow so many other gifts that grow naturally from this one great gift:

“…a future and a hope…” (Jeremiah 29:11)

…Rest for the “weary and burdened.” (Matthew 11:28 & 29)

“…power to the weak,” and “strength to the powerless.” (Isaiah 40: 29-31)

“…peace of mind and heart…” (John 14:27)

“…grace and glory…” (Psalm 84:11)

…Endurance and character through trials and suffering. (Romans 5:1-21)

…Wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. (Proverbs 2:6)

…Guidance and direction. (Proverbs 3: 5 & 6)

…Love that is real, deep, and eternal. (Romans 8: 37-39)

You will most likely open several gifts this Christmas and by next year they will probably be worn out if not forgotten altogether. But the true gift of Christmas, you won’t find under the tree.

It’s inside the human heart and it shines through a child’s eyes. Its message is from God and it can’t be legislated away. It is Christ and He is Christmas eternal – with us forever and in our darkest hours that come without ‘ribbons packages, or bows.’

Jodie Stevens

When God’s Timing Meets Ours

Jodie StevensI asked God to give me a husband and He did, after way too many years of loneliness.

I asked God to help me get sober and He did, a thousand regrets later than I wanted.

I asked God help me find me the right job and He did, after at least a dozen wrong ones.

I asked God to show me boundaries and He did, after I gave away pieces of myself I could never get back.

I asked God to reveal why I was angry and afraid and He did, but I wanted to know when I was young.

A few gray hairs have sprouted as I ponder this and I see the veins through the aging skin of my hands as my fingers click the keyboard. I have not God’s concept of eternity, only the knowledge of these things after my days are only half gone if I’m lucky.

I want to tell God He is the one who is late, sitting in eternity with nothing but time on His hands to teach lessons that come too late. But I know I’m not a robot at His dispense and like the prodigal son I have wandered far from His path.

And if I care enough to face the truth, I know that my own immaturity would have wrecked my marriage if it had on the day been of my choosing.

Emotional pain would have plunged me into relapse if God had stricken me sober when I asked Him to.

The pressure and responsibility of the ‘right’ job would have overwhelmed me if God had given it to me as I wanted.

The truth behind my anger and fear would have been too painful to know when I was young.

And had God given me boundaries before He did, I would have been without compassion.

With Him I feel like I’m constantly waiting. Without Him I’m a sheep without a Shepard prone to loneliness, regret, anger, and fear.

Gods timing is perfect, and in my own time I wandered into it expecting He could turn back the clock on what was lost, forgetting that time itself is the greatest healer.

And if my days were to end tomorrow I would have no say, for God owns the hands of time and He is the one who gives it and takes it away.

Jodie Stevens

Angry Hoarse and Raw

Jodie StevensIt’s February of ‘02, a few months shy of my 31st birthday. The rain is pouring down as is typical of winter evenings in Portland, Oregon. I’ve just returned home from my part time job as a reporter for the county station. The pay is lousy and I’m frustrated. It’s been a difficult day riddled with family drama and workplace irritations and I’m all out of patience. Actually, I guess you could say I never really had any. Patience (like my faith) is a new virtue God is showing me and I’m trying to learn how to acquire some of it. I’ve seen it on others and it looks pretty good on them.

I fall down on my bed and begin wailing and sobbing, the perfect prelude to a really good temper tantrum. I rock back and forth wiping the tears from my face now contorted with grief and anger and begin yelling at God. Something my mother once told me was OK to do since God’s used to it. I’m as certain today as I was then that truer words have not been spoken.

In a rare moment of complete honesty and abandonment; angry, hoarse and raw, I begin telling God everything He already knows!

I remind Him that I have a college degree and I should not be working for such lousy pay. I’m adamant that He knows how hard I worked to earn my degree (which took 5 years since I partied most nights). I firmly let Him know that I’ve had a job and never been without one since I was fourteen years old working as a birthday party hostess for McDonald-land.

I conclude our one sided ‘discussion’ (something my Mom always told me her and Dad were having at 100 decibels) by simply stating, only loud enough for the neighbors to hear: “I DESERVE BETTER!!”

The next day I miraculously receive two job offers out of the blue. One was from the Fish radio station in Sacramento where I’ve worked now for almost 13 years.

At the time of that reckless prayer I was an angry broken mess with shattered self-esteem. I had no idea where my pain was coming from or why thanks to the numbing effect of my addictions. In hindsight I now see that it was one of the first times in my life where I exhibited some self-esteem. I believe God honored my prayer that day not necessarily because I deserved better at the time but because I was willing to believe I could be better. 13 years later and 9 years sober I now see that God believed it long before I did.

How Do You Express Gratitude?

Jodie StevensI recently posted the question on Facebook: How do you express gratitude? Some people said hugs and cards. For others, it was through prayers and acts of service. And for many people expressing gratitude simply meant maintaining a good attitude regardless of their circumstances. No matter how you express it, it’s important that you do.

Grateful people are happier, healthier and friendlier. In addition, they are less self-centered, materialistic, and envious. Grateful people usually live longer, love better, and are more successful in their careers. I’m thankful for gratitude because choosing it over bitterness radically altered my own life.

Thanking God through my difficulties opened my heart to accept valuable lessons and to be teachable instead of resentful. Gratitude quieted my anger and calmed my fears, which made room for my self-esteem to heal. Its’ therapeutic power to transform my negative emotions was instrumental in keeping me sober.

God planted a seed of gratitude in my heart the day I invited Him into my life. Day by day it grows inside me and engulfs the bitter root that preceded it. I’m thankful for the lifesaving gift of gratitude and the knowledge, love and friendship of the One who gave it.

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?

The Cost Of Doing What Is Right

Jodie StevensIn one of his radio broadcasts Dr. David Jeremiah said: “It’s safer in the storm with Jesus in the boat than it is on the shore without Him.”

The problem is it doesn’t feel safe in the storm. I’m always tempted to take the easy way out when my circumstances become difficult. Often times I want to keep quiet instead of speaking up to avoid disagreement. It’s easier to let lies and gossip persist than it is to defend myself and face the conflict that follows. And compromise seems better than standing firm because there is less pressure and disappointment from others. Sometimes I manipulate myself into believing it’s the Christian thing to do.

The trouble is that in the bible I see that Jesus stirred things up everywhere He went. In fact, his words and actions made people so angry they killed Him. And in John 15:18 He said: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”

I’m amazed when people say Christianity is for the weak minded. Nothing in my life has been more difficult than doing what is right. Nothing. And when you do the right thing people will make fun of you. I know because I used to make fun of people like me all the time. You will also face conflict and adversity, often times these will come from other so called Christians. It’s the cost of staying ‘in the boat’ with Jesus. But the good news is that God is in the boat too and He’ll have your back in the long run.

Dr. Jeremiah goes on to say: “Sometimes the training for greatness is the ability to refrain from bitterness when you are not rewarded promptly for righteousness.”

And it’s most likely ‘in the storm’ that we will learn to navigate through what He has planned for us next. If we swim to the shore where it is safe we will miss that plan.

Yes Jesus stayed in the boat and He rocked the boat. But He also calmed the wind and the waves and walked on the water. It really is the safest place to be.

Jodie Stevens

Advice From The One Who Had It All

Jodie StevensIt’s been said that King Solomon was one of the wisest men who ever lived. In addition to wisdom, he had everything anyone could have wanted, and yet he is credited for writing Ecclesiastes, which is probably the most depressing book in the bible (and one of my personal favorites.)

In it we are told that everything is meaningless and the pursuit of it is like ‘chasing the wind.’

Why is our quest for money, status, and material possessions so senseless? Why do we have this constant nagging for something more, something new, something shiny, or something different than the thing we had before?

It’s because God has “planted eternity in the human heart.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

That God shaped hole was put inside us by our creator to draw us closer to Him. No amount of alcohol, drugs, money, or relationships will fill it. I’m not even sure God Himself can quench it while we are still living ‘under the sun.’

But I do know that for every believer it will be filled when we come face to face with “the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.” (1 John 2:25)

So in the meantime what are we to do? How are we to live with this restless spirit inside us that keeps us wanting more of what we know will not satisfy?

In the end, King Solomon; king of Israel and the richest man of his time concluded with this:

“Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of every person.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

Jodie Stevens