Seek: Lessons from Wise Men


Lessons from Wise Men

Mere Kirimete & happy holiday season! What’s your favourite part of the Christmas story? I’m a “shepherd” girl myself, but I’ve been thinking a little more about the wise men this year.

For one thing, it’s super cool that they came soooo far just because they saw a star. I love the active faith that they had to travel long and hard. They believed a prophecy, and sought long and hard after Jesus… just to spend a little while worshipping him and laying what they had at his manger.

Matthew 2:2 – “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

That kind of faith is admirable, and I believe, worth my attention this Christmas. As is the action they combined with their faith. They sought Jesus. They had such an active faith.

Mark and I were given a lot of gifts this Christmas – gifts we tore through lovely wrapping paper to find, gifts of being “present” with friends and family, and just being reminded of all the gifts that God has lavished on us this year. He has given me health, given Mark a job, put us in a house with cheap rent and good flatmates, provided for us over and over again. We were able to go back to America for a month. I travelled to Malaysia and to Fiji. We have been overwhelmed with God’s goodness toward us this past year.

But, this week, we were given an enormous gift for Christmas that we weren’t expecting (a car) and have been in awe ever since. There’s a reason there is a phrase called “shock and awe”. We’ve been shocked by generosity, and in awe of God’s grace and goodness toward us through other people. Part of the enormity of this gift is the effect it has had on our faith.

We went home on Christmas Eve with this gift, and God took me to Matthew 7:7-11: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened… If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

I love the reminders God gives us (big and small) that when we actively seek after him, we find him and we find his blessings. And I don’t mean that that we are meant to be materialistic about it. But, I know through experience that God loves to provide for his children.

I just mean that when we seek after Jesus – and after his heart – then we find him. Finding him is the beautiful part. It is beautiful to seek and find him while reading his Word. It is beautiful to seek and find him while being in his presence, worshipping him and standing in awe of who he is. It is beautiful to ask and receive his “good things” – his love, his grace, his gifts.

And, it is beautiful to seek him… and to lay what we have at his feet.

So this Christmas season, I want to remind and encourage myself (as well as you, wonderful readers) that God calls us to 1) Seek him and find him – as a baby in a manger, a man who died for us, and as the One True King, and 2) Ask and receive – by spending time worshipping him – in prayer, adoration, and gratitude – by laying what we have at his manger, his feet, and his cross. Receive the love that he has for you, and the mercy that he wants to lavish on you.

Here’s to seeking the king.

Much love,

Ashley Ruth






Christmas Eve & The Miracle Fern

STORYINGCHRISTMASmiraclefernIt’s Christmas Eve and I have been in the kitchen all day baking! How about you? Are you ready for Christmas Day?

We’ve talked a lot about how God is with us – that He came down as a baby boy to walk on earth beside us. And, as I was thinking and praying about what to write to wrap up our Christmas posts, I was even more astounded by the idea that God desires so badly to be with us. God loves us so very, very much.

The Creator of the universe is completely smitten with us. He delights in us. He loves us so much that he sent Jesus, Emmanuel. He adores us so much that he chose to walk among us.

And he loves us so much that he walks among us still.

Our series is called “Storying Christmas”, and we’ve been focusing on themes. Today, I’d like to tell you a true story to end our series:

Yesterday, I was out on our balcony. We live in a six-level house with two other people – and our room is in the very middle. It opens out to a balcony, which looks out onto our weed-infested yard. There are dark green vines climbing up our native trees, giant fennels climbing skyward, and three varieties of flowering purple weeds. It’s not a pretty sight if you know the different between native plants and plants that kill natives.

Our balcony has been sorely neglected in the past few months – just because I’ve been sick. My flowers have mostly died and my poor little succulents don’t look so good. You’re not supposed to be able to kill succulents… but succulents had never met ME before!

Like you, I was very busy yesterday! We were going back and forth between our house and the house we will be housesitting at for three weeks. I was carrying back and forth Christmas presents, Christmas crafts, all of our Christmas baking ingredients, my Kitchen-Aid, and on and on. I was checking in on the dog at this house and also helping my husband get some things done.

I found myself just swamped with busy-ness.

I’ve been losing comfort and joy to chaos and stress.

But, for some reason, I started working on the balcony. I don’t know why. There were many, many other things to do. I just started watering the dying flowers… then I began to cut dead bits off my succulents… then I began to re-pot.

I drilled some holes into a tin container from The Hospice Shop. I put in the dried up soil from pots the succulents had been in.

Soil. I needed more soil.

Luckily, I had some soil left in my cactus mix. This mix had been sitting on the deck for about a year and a half because – well – I don’t really know why. I’m not a very tidy person. 🙂

So I started to pour out this soil. It was dark brown and moist – so different from the dried-up, dead-brown coloured dirt that covered the bottom of the tin now. Next to each other, they looked like completely different kinds of dirt. But they had come from the same place once upon a time.

Suddenly, as I pour, clumps of moss appear. I reach in to the bag and pull out some little pieces of green. I think, Whoa. Those weeds even got into this closed-up soil bag! Our backyard is horrible!

But then I pull out a big piece of green life with my hand. There, growing in a dark, forgotten plastic bag, was a beautiful fern – full of life, healthy and happy.

I’m reminded of how Jesus fills us up. He gives us life. He is the Living Water. He cares for us when we are “dried up”. In our dark times, his Word and his love help us to not only survive, but to thrive.

I’m also reminded of how two thousand years ago, an angel came to Mary. And then, in the most unexpected place of all, a king was born.

In the darkness of this world that was dead and dying, Jesus showed up. And he came to save us.

He is beautiful and perfect. He is our miracle.

Mark helped me pot what I like to call the miracle fern. We’ll keep it nice and watered, in a dark place where it can thrive and help me remember that Jesus shows up in the dark times. He showed up in the times of light, too. Because he is “God with Us” – and he is with us all the time. He heals us and he mends us. He loves us and he adores us.

Merry Christmas, readers.

May you be blessed with the realization that God walking on earth is a miracle.

And may you always know that God is with you, and that he loves you.




Missed something? Check out these Christmas posts:



…And Joy


Summer Christmas


God with us: Part I


God with us: Part II


God with us: Part III


Storying Christmas: Waiting


Storying Christmas: Waiting

STORYINGCHRISTMASwaitingChristmas is, in many ways, a waiting game. We have to be patient ALL year long until Christmas day. We have to wait to open presents until the 25th – even when we can see them sitting there under the tree in December!

I complain a lot during this season because I just can’t wait to open my presents! But, if I’m being honest, part of the fun is the waiting – the anticipation, the longing for what’s under the tree.

For centuries, the people of God had been waiting for the Messiah to come – a Messiah who would rescue them and lead them forward – one who would be their king.

God used Moses and Aaron to take them out of slavery in Egypt. He used Joshua to lead them out of wilderness and into a Promised Land. But, like we do so often, they got impatient. David and Solomon built a great kingdom. Every time, like us, the Israelites got tired of waiting for God – much less the Messiah! Here is what God says to them through Isaiah:

Isaiah 30: 15, 18


“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:

‘In repentance and rest is your salvation,

In quietness and trust is your strength,

But you would have none of it.

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!’

 In this passage from Isaiah, God tells the Israelites (and us today) to repent and rest, then we will find salvation and strength.

Even though we are impatient toward God sometimes, he wants to show us compassion and he does this through a Messiah. Through Jesus Christ, the baby, the man, the sacrificial lamb.

I think it’s important to realize that God doesn’t always give you what you expect. For example, you might know that the rectangle present under the tree is a book. But, you may be surprised at what book is under that Santa-laden wrapping paper. Jesus was not exactly what the people expected. They probably thought they were going to get a warrior rather than a carpenter.

Realize that God knows what we need more than we do. In the case of Jesus the Messiah, it was freedom from sin rather than from man.

In our waiting and through our repentance and rest, God will come through. He will come through for us like he did on the first Christmas.

What are you waiting for these days? Talk it through with the Messiah, then thank Him that you don’t have to wait for Him to come anymore. He’s already done that. Let him know that you realize he knows what we need. Tell him that you trust him, and that you will wait for him.



Missed something? Check out these Christmas posts:



…And Joy


Summer Christmas


God with us: Part I


God with us: Part II


God with us: Part III


Storying Christmas: Waiting


Christmas Eve & The Miracle Fern


God with Us: Part III

Are you enjoying these “God with Us” posts? I just LOVE that God is near to us, close to us, walking along beside us. He is behind us and He is before us. Our God sent Jesus to be human, along with us.


We are created as relational beings, and so we get lonely sometimes. We feel alone-ness rather than comfort. Sometimes, we have sorrow rather than joy. But Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us.

Read this part of the Christmas story and really imagine what it must have been like to be Mary and Joseph:

Matthew 1:18-25


Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:


“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”


(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Jesus was born to a young village girl. His father on earth was a simple carpenter. There probably wasn’t anything outstanding or extraordinary about them (other than that Mary was pregnant out of wedlock). In fact, the people around town may have looked down on them. But, those two people were Jesus’ parents.

We can read stories throughout the gospels where Jesus goes to the “forgotten” people. He went to the “sinners“. Emmanuel was born to and lived among the outcasts, the poor, and the sorrowful. He was born among regular, every day people like you and me.

“God with us” does not mean “God with the rich and righteous”. It does not matter who you are – because Jesus came, like the angel says, to “save his people from their sins”. He is the great rescuer, so he does not need for you to be perfect and happy already. He is comfort to the lonely. He is joy to the sorrowful.

And he can be those things because he is God with us. God on earth, born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth. He was a kid who laughed and cried. Maybe he was teased by his peers. He probably felt alone sometimes.

He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is mighty and so much higher than us. But he came down to be here with us.

So Emmanuel is such a powerful idea for us! It means that Jesus can relate to us. He has been here. He is with us. He knows what it’s like to lose a friend. He knows what it is like to feel betrayed. He knows how it feels when no one believes him – to be the centre of gossip and slander.

Jesus knows and he understands.

At the end of your week, going into the weekend, spend some time thinking about the humanity of Jesus. Read parts of the gospels where he is tempted, angry, weeping, or praying. Realize that when Jesus came to earth, he traded perfection in heaven for the pain on earth. He knows your pain and mine. And he walks with you through it all.


Missed something? Check out these Christmas posts:



…And Joy


Summer Christmas


God with us: Part I


God with us: Part II


God with us: Part III


Storying Christmas: Waiting


Christmas Eve & The Miracle Fern

God with Us: Part II


Last time, we looked at how God desires to be with us. He was Emmanuel, “God with us”, from the beginning of the world. He walked with Adam and Eve. He holds us with we need him. He is behind us and he is before us. Today, let’s look at how every aspect of God is with us. Father, Son, & Spirit. The Trinity.

How absolutely, ineffably incredible! God is so high and so powerful. Yet, his great desire is to be with us. And he made a way to do this. I think about the words from “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”:

How deep the Father’s love for us

How vast beyond all measure

That He should give His only Son

To make a wretch His treasure

God sent Jesus, his son, as a baby. When Jesus had to go back into heaven, he sent the Spirit to be with us. And we don’t really deserve that kind of love.

John 14:16-17


“And I will ask the Father and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be with you.”

We see in the Old Testament that God is with us. We see in the Christmas story and in the Gospels that Jesus came, quite literally, to be with us. And we see in Jesus’ promise and in Acts and the letters to the apostles that the Spirit is with us. It “lives with us”.

We rarely think of the Trinity as Emmanuel. But I think the Bible is clear that every part of God is with us.

Spend some time today praising God for every part of himself. Thank God the Father that he is with you. Thank Jesus the Son that he came to be with you. And thank the Spirit for being your advocate and friend – with you.





…And Joy


Summer Christmas


God with us: Part I


God with us: Part II


God with us: Part III


Storying Christmas: Waiting


Christmas Eve & The Miracle Fern

God With Us: Part I

God with us. God – the Creator, the Powerful One, and the Righteous One. With – Coming down in the form of a powerless, innocent baby. Us – the very imperfect people of Earth, the ones who choose not to recognize His goodness most of the time.

One of the best themes of Christmas, for me, is this idea of Emmanuel. Of “God with Us”.

Most of us will recognize this, primarily Christmas, theme. It’s just in the past few weeks that I’ve made this amazing discovery: The Bible is packed with verses and chapters where “God with Us” is the underlying theme!

God with Us 1

Don’t you get excited when Christmas can happen all year round? “God with Us” is not just a Christmas theme. God is with us every moment of every day. He always has been. He always will be.

This week, let’s focus on Emmanuel.

I want to start by looking in the Old Testament.

Genesis 3:8a

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day…”

Isaiah 41:10

“Do not fear, for I am with you;

Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you;

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 30:21

“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’.”

Genesis tells us that from the very beginning, God was with us! But, even though we messed up by eating that apple, he still wanted to be with us.

We can find so much comfort in knowing this: God wants to be with us.

We can find so much joy knowing this: God is with us.

Isaiah shows us some beautiful, powerful promises. God is with us so much that He gives us this picture where we find him beside us – holding us up. We can allow Him to carry us. We can let Him take control and move us.

He is right behind us in Isaiah 30:21. He is right there, leading us… helping us.

I get quite speechless when I think about all of it. Which doesn’t work well on a blog. So I’ll just suggest this for today to close:

Spend a few minutes meditating on the idea that God wants to be with you. Allow Him to be right there with you. Feel Him holding you up with His hands. Know that He is there to guide you.

Just feel Him with you.

Because His name is “Emmanuel”.





…And Joy


Summer Christmas


God with us: Part I


God with us: Part II


God with us: Part III


Storying Christmas: Waiting


Christmas Eve & The Miracle Fern

Summer Christmas

STORYINGCHRISTMASIf you live in the northern hemisphere, you will probably have a very different picture of Christmas than people here in New Zealand. We have summer Christmas.

When I am in New Zealand, my Christmas holidays would be amiss if I did not go to the beach… a lot. When I’m dreaming of a “White Christmas”, the closest I get are the white sand beaches of east Auckland. Instead of pine trees, our pohutukawa trees blossom red flowers against their green leaves.

I love this beach life. I love living near the ocean.

Once you have been to the ocean, you will understand this statement: There are just some days when you just feel the need to drive a bit and sit next to the sea.

Today is such a day.

We can learn so much from the ocean. That’s probably why there are so many songs that use it as a metaphor. Here are some lines you may recognize:

“In oceans deep, my faith will stand.”

“When sorrows like sea billows roll…”

“Oceans will part, nations will come, at the whisper of your name.”

“Set my feet upon the sea ‘til I’m dancing in the deep.”

I think of these songs and then I think of Christmas. There’s a question that I ask myself as I sit here at the beginning of December: Is there anything about Christmas that is like this ocean?

At first, I’m thinking no. That’s a ridiculous question. Then, different themes started popping into my mind.

I’m sure we can all come up with some great answers. You can probably come with more than me. Right now, God is using the sea to refresh, restore, heal, and satisfy me. But, when I think of the sea as it relates to Christmas, this is what I’ve come up with:  POWER.

Yes, the original Christmas story is about peace. A silent night. Wise men quietly following a star. Silent shepherds watching their sheep at night. A sweet baby asleep in a manger. It has all of these things.

But we must never forget the POWER of God when he comes down to man.

The sea sounds so peaceful to me right now. The waves are so small that little kids are going a few meters in. There are people parasailing. But there are no surfers because the waves are just not big enough. The ocean is calm and quiet.

But have you seen the ocean roar as a storm comes in? Have you seen crashing waves leap over boulders and into cliffs? Have you heard those horrible stories of people getting caught in the wild current, being swept out to sea?

So it is with the Christmas story. Peace has come. Comfort and joy have, indeed, come to earth with Jesus. But so does power. Because the Son of God came to our planet that first Christmas day.

God. The Great-I-Am. He came to Earth. The One who is so great and holy that even prophets could not look upon Him and live. To even hear the name of Yahweh garnered fear and trembling. The LORD, mighty in battle, came.


But in a tiny baby.

Power that made blind men see, deaf men hear, and dead men walk.

Power that rose himself from the grave.

Power that takes away the sins of the world.

I’m glad the ocean reminded me of God’s peace. And I’m glad it reminds me of God’s power. I never want to forget this part of Christmas.



Want more Christmas??? Here’s more posts:



…And Joy


Summer Christmas


God with us: Part I


God with us: Part II


God with us: Part III


Storying Christmas: Waiting


Christmas Eve & The Miracle Fern

…And Joy

Let’s talk about the other half of the phrase Comfort and Joy. Joy. More specifically, joy to the world.

Christmas is such a time for joy. Glad tidings of comfort and joy. The Lord has come. Let earth receive her king.

But let’s look at the time before that joy. Let’s look at the conflict in the story.


There was a young teenager named Mary who was engaged to a man named Joseph. A good man – a man of God. But she becomes pregnant. Imagine becoming pregnant while engaged to a good man. And the baby is not his child. There’s so much grief in that – for Mary, for Joseph, for the families of both, and for the village in which they live. It’s not something that is easy. Nine whole months of people talking about you. They say Mary is crazy and a harlot. They say Joseph should get rid of her, leaving her and her baby to fend for themselves.

There was a man named Zechariah who had no children with his wife Elizabeth because she was barren. They were old and childless, but they had prayed for a baby. That is so hard.

There were shepherds, keeping watch over their flocks at night. They were doing what they did every single day – the lower class life of working and herding sheep. No kings came to them. They had no ambition – no dreams. They could not hope for joy.

Long before any of this, there were these two nations, divided from one nation: Israel and Judah. They had been united in the glory days of David and Solomon and they longed for that time when God would bless them once again. They felt abandoned, punished. All they had was a cryptic prophecy that a leader would rise up and be their uniting king once more. The Babylonians came and the Assyrians and the Romans. They lived in a war-torn land. They were oppressed and afraid. Many were forced to immigrate. They were spread out – families torn apart.

So much pain.

Can we imagine what all of this was like? Can you identify with any of these stories? A couple with an unplanned pregnancy. Another couple with no hope of having children. A lower class citizen, feeling hopeless – feeling that there is no place you can go to escape the life you have. A displaced people, longing for the glory days – or even just for home.

But then, joy.

All of these stories end in joy.

For Zechariah and Elizabeth, God gave a baby. So much joy!

For the shepherds, God sent the Lamb of God – and proclaimed his coming with angels!

For Israel and Judah, God sent the Messiah, the hope for which they had prayed for centuries!

For Mary and Joseph, God sent Jesus – a baby, the Lamb of God, the Messiah. A small child who would take away the sins of the world.

God sends joy to us. He has already done so. And what we see right now as pain, sadness, or hopelessness, we will one day see as joy. What a beautiful thing to remember this season – that in Jesus the baby, we have been given eternal comfort… and joy.





…And Joy


Summer Christmas


God with us: Part I


God with us: Part II


God with us: Part III


Storying Christmas: Waiting


Christmas Eve & The Miracle Fern

Storying Christmas: Comfort

storyingchristmas“Comfort” is one of the English language’s most warm & fuzzy words. So I think it suits Christmas perfectly. In the middle of winter, comfort is a big mug full of hot cocoa and marshmallows. It’s a red flannel blanket and a well-loved book. Comfort is the feeling of a fireplace; it’s the feeling of a big bear hug.

I’ve really been thinking and praying for a few months on what to write this December – Christmas season. There are endless articles and sermons and memes that seem to represent this month. There’s so much noise out there – mostly consumeristic. I want to quiet the noise with simplicity.

So, let’s do a little series. Let’s call it, simply, Storying Christmas. Let’s just focus on themes within the Christmas story. Because stories are how we see the world. Stories are how we learn. Stories are how we think and begin to hope. And let’s start with the story of comfort.

I haven’t written on A Little Sanctuary in a couple of months. In many ways, these couple of months have been very difficult. This blog is all about comfort – it’s all about finding “sanctuary”, finding rescue in loneliness. So coming back with a post on this subject seems fitting.

It’s early December, but you’ve probably already started listening to your Christmas carols. Like this one:

God rest ye merry gentlemen

Let nothing you dismay

Remember Christ our Saviour

Was born on Christmas Day

To save us all from Satan’s power

When we were gone astray


Oh, tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy!

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!


From God our heavenly father

A blessed angel came,

And unto certain shepherds

Brought tidings of the same:

How that in Bethlehem

Was born the Son of God by name


Oh, tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy!

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!


The shepherds at these tidings

Rejoiced much in mind

And left their flocks a feeding

In tempest storm and wind

And went to Bethlehem straightway,

The blessed babe to find


Oh, tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy!

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!

Wstorying-christmase’ll get to the second half, joy, next time; but, just pay attention to the ending of each verse to find the feeling of comfort. The first verse ends with the comfort of being rescued from darkness – Comfort. The second ends with a baby, God’s own son, a Messiah the Hebrew people had waited for centuries to come – Comfort. The third verse ends finding that baby at the end of a storm – Comfort.

The Christmas story is an outpouring of comfort (and joy). That “peace on earth”. Mary is told by the angel not to be afraid – that God the Most High has found favor with her (Mark 1:30). Zechariah prophesied after his son John the Baptist was born that God had come to redeem and save them (Mark 2:68). And I love when Matthew reminds us of prophesy from Isaiah – that Jesus will be called God with us (Matthew 1:22-23).

God with us.

God rest you, merry gentlemen, boys, girls, ladies. Be at rest. Do not be afraid. A baby was born – Emmanuel. God with us. Live in comfort this Christmas season. Live in the feeling of that baby boy coming, sleeping peacefully. There is nothing much more comforting than a mother holding a baby – a baby that grew up and now comforts us, holding us in his hands.

Looking for more Christmas posts? Here ya go:



…And Joy


Summer Christmas


God with us: Part I


God with us: Part II


God with us: Part III


Storying Christmas: Waiting


Christmas Eve & The Miracle Fern