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When Christmas Peace Falls to Pieces

17 Dec

A stressed young mom tried to wrap Christmas presents for her toddler while juggling her new infant. It was dogindiaper_akc-aboutdogdiapersafter midnight and she was so tired and not thinking correctly.

Imagine her husband’s surprise when he walked in to see the dog, Murphy, wrapped in one of the baby’s diapers.

“I didn’t have time to take him for a walk,” she said.

Now that’s stressed!

Some people get so stressed in December, they use their stress ball to throw at people who stress them out!

For many years, when I flipped my calendar to December, I flipped out!

My heart and mind started racing. Everything had to be “just so,” perfect for the holidays. I justified my heightened expectations with nice, spiritual-sounding statements: “I want everyone to enjoy the spirit of Christmas” and “God would want us to do all things with excellence in honor of Jesus’ birthday.”

But the reality was, I was a Christmas Control Freak.

I have a pretty ceramic plaque in my home that reads, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” But if you asked some of my family members back then, they might not have agreed with that. Whenever I got into Christmas Control Freak mode, I created chaos in our home.

Christmas Control Freak mode is the quickest way to destroy Christmas peace.

Christians or not, there are times we all struggle with finding peace. We may try to generate it within ourselves with positive thinking. We may seek it in others, longing for the kinds of encouragement that will keep us calm.

Some people travel to far off lands in search of some kind of peace. Others go into seclusion, hiding from the stresses of life.

But the truth is, no one can give us true, lasting peace except the Lord, because He created a restlessness within us that can only be satisfied in Him! The apostle Paul says when we are “justified by faith”—when we have trusted Christ alone to rescue us from our sin—we have peace with God (Romans 5:1).

The Psalmist said “the Lord will bless his people with peace” (Psalm 29:11). This means there is no condemnation when we stand before the Lord someday (Romans 8:1); Jesus paid sin’s penalty, which we could never pay (Romans 5:6-8).

The world the peace gives can be good for a while, but it doesn’t last. Because we live in a fallen world, peace is temporary.

But Jesus says,

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. . . . I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 14:27; 16:33 ESV).

So the peace of God is ours, but we must receive it. We must learn to stop our striving and rest in Christ’s peace (Matthew 11:28).

We have to seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34:14). We gain peace when we love the Word of God and fix our minds on Him (Psalm 119:165; Isaiah 26:3).

And we must not only receive it, we must let it rule our hearts (Colossians 3:15). When the Holy Spirit is in control, one of the results of being “spiritually-minded” is peace (Galatians 5:22-23; Romans 8:6).

Too many of us will not let peace reign. We insist on sitting at the control boards of our lives, manipulating and fixing things ourselves, when God calls us to surrender to His control—to trust and obey—so He can usher peace into our hearts.

I think Mary, the mother of Jesus, understood the importance of peace reigning in the heart. She responded to the angel’s announcement with words reflecting her heart surrender: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38)

Peace in the midst of tough circumstances is especially hard. “Peace on earth” can become a struggle with strained finances, death of a loved one, loneliness and isolation, and other not-so-peaceful situations.

These days, when Christmas peace begins to fall to pieces, I am learning to pause and pray. I ask the Lord, “Where am I running ahead of you or focusing on things that aren’t important? and “What do you want me to do next?”

His answers to my heart sometimes surprise me.

  • “Come apart a while—be still and listen for My instructions”
  • Rest in me and find fresh strength.”
  • Be more relationship-oriented and less task-oriented.”
  • “Be less self-absorbed and more others-conscious.
  • “Help that person see Me.”

I’m reminded by scripture, those that have peace must learn to sow peace (James 3:18). We sow God’s peace (and love) as we seek to resolve conflicts, share our resources, spend time with others who are hurting, comfort the grieving, and act with compassion toward those who need it most.

Christmas peace is ours if we will receive it and let it reign in our hearts. Three of the quickest ways I know to realign with God’s peace is to be grateful, practice contentment and stay surrendered.

All three are choices we can make to pursue peace.

~ Dawn

Dog in diaper graphic on American Kennel Club site, regarding dog diapers.

 

 

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5 Brilliant Lessons Age Spots Taught Me

2 Sep

I didn’t know lion cubs are born with spots—brown rosettes—on their body. Almost like a leopard.LionCub_pogo_mm_Pixabay

A funny cartoon shows Daddy lion talking to his young cub.

“Don’t worry, Son,” the lion said.

“They’ll go away as you get older. They’re just youth spots.”

Youth spots are cute, but what about age spots?

Poet Elaine Bishop wrote, in “Poems of Hope and Humor,”

“When I woke up this morning, I found another spot.

I do not know what’s causing them, but I sure have a lot.

Grandma called them liver spots; that does not appeal to me.

Now I’m hearing age spots; Oh, Lord, that could not be.

I’d pass them off as freckles but that would not be true,

And I must always tell the truth whatever else I do.

As long as I’ve no name for them and I’m still in the dark,

I’ve decided I’ll call them my special beauty mark.” *

GrandmaDorothy_LOLWithGod_5BrilliantFactsAgeSpotsTaughtMeI always said I wanted to grow old like my Grandma Dorothy (pictured here). Yes, she had wrinkles and age spots, but her gentle spirit and kind heart always glowed.  She loved Jesus and it showed!

I just didn’t expect to see my own wrinkles and age spots so soon! 

As I sat in church one Sunday, I stared at my arm, counting the age spots:  1 – 2- 3 – 4. Oh, please! Enough already!

As I sat there, only half listening to the preacher at that moment, I was hearing another message. My age spots were “speaking” to me, and they taught me five important lessons. Brilliant lessons!

1. GET SMART: Use Sunscreen!

I haven’t been wise. Although I wasn’t a “sun baby,” since moving to California I’ve soaked up lots of sun just in daily activities. And I haven’t used sunscreen.

Damage is apparent, but it’s not too late to start. (I hope.)

I’ve read lots of home remedies for age spots (like a mixture of brown rice, agave nectar and lemon juice), and the market is flooded with potions for a price. (I’ll probably get emails from them!) But the truth is, we all get them. Some more, others less.  We need to get smart and use the sunscreen!

2. SEE REALITY: Beauty IS More than Skin Deep.

My Grandma is in heaven now, but I remember her true beauty. Whenever I looked at her face, I saw more than wrinkles and age spots. Her beauty truly was more than skin deep. Her beauty was deep within and it blessed all of her family and friends.

In extolling the virtues of the noble woman, the writer of Proverbs says, “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD will be praised” (Proverbs 31:30 HCSB).

Matthew Henry wrote, “…the fear of God reigning in the heart, is the beauty of the soul; it lasts for ever.” **

I want that beauty of the soul, don’t you?

3. FACE TRUTH: You’re Terminal.

Hollywood celebrity Valerie Harper, diagnosed with brain cancer, said, “We’re all terminal; none of us are getting out of this alive.”

The Bible says much the same thing about our earthly existence. Unless the Lord comes to snatch us away (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17), we’re all doing to die (Hebrews 9:27).

We’re all terminally ill with a disease named “death.” 

Christians don’t need to worry about this fact. To be “in Christ” and to die is “gain” (Philippians 1:21). We go directly into the presence of the Lord (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 5:8). Paul said he had a desire “to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23).

4. REDEEM TIME: Don’t Lose Opportunities.

Although we don’t know the final date for our tombstones, we have today to love and serve the Lord and people.

We need to “redeem” (buy up) every day, looking for opportunities. How?

There are many ways to redeem our remaining days. Here are just a few:

  • We can awake from our sleep and understand the times (Romans 13:11).
  • We can look carefully how we behave and be wise (Ephesians 5:15).
  • We can make the best use of our time (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5b).
  • We can seek the will of God each day—our marching orders (Ephesians 5:17).
  • We can be filled with God’s Spirit (Ephesians 5:18b) and under His control.
  • We can do all God calls us to do with all our might while there is still time! (Ecclesiastes 9:10)
  • We can set our mind on heavenly things, because really, the truth is we are “dead” to this life—with our lives alive in and “hidden with Christ” (Colossians 3:1-3).

Don’t live in such a way that your final day is filled with regrets. Where you have sinned, confess and repent … and then move on! God has much to accomplish through you until your dying breath!

5. REMEMBER HOPE: You’re Promised Another Body!

While the Christ-follower’s soul goes to be with the Lord, the body is changed later (1 Thessalonians 4:14, 16). Our bodies are raised “imperishable”—perfect and free from all death and decay (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).

This is part of the blessed hope (Titus 2:13-14) of the Christian’s eternal life. Our mind can be in the beginning stages of transformation now (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 4:16). But someday our lowly body will be transformed to be like our Savior’s glorious body (Philippians 3:20-21).

Our new body will never wear out or grow old, never get sick or decay and never die! 

And no more age spots!

Which of these lessons from age spots speaks to you today?  In light of your aging, how will you cooperate with the inner transformation God wants to produce in you?

– Dawn

* “Seeing Spots” by Elaine Bishop, Poems of Hope and Humor (AuthorHouse, 2013), p. 9 (Emphasis mine).

** Matthew Henry Commentary on Proverbs 31:10-31

 

More Than Deciding

14 May

A group of junior-level executives were participating in a management training program. The seminar leader pounded home his point about the need to FrogGraphic_LOLwithGod_Freedigitalphotosmake decisions and take action on these decisions.

“For instance,” he said, “if you had five frogs on a log and three of them decided to jump, how many frogs would you have left on the log?”

The answers from the group were unanimous: “Two.”

“Wrong,” replied the speaker, “there would still be five because there is a difference between deciding to jump and jumping.” *

LOL and ouch!

How many things have I “decided to do” but then failed to follow through?

  • Deciding to save money for Christmas.
  • Deciding to eat healthier.
  • Deciding to faithfully exercise.
  • Deciding to read through the Bible.
  • Deciding to memorize more scripture.

Decide … then follow through. Sounds simple enough. But then we trip up.

Why don’t we follow through?

(1) We are human beings—we’re still sinners.

“Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. … as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one. … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10, 23).

(2) We don’t always appropriate what God has done for us.

We need to take possession of what God has given us: eternal life, and the power to change. The power of the cross and Christ’s resurrection will change our lives, and we can begin to see that change as we practice acting on our identity with Christ.

Humbling ourselves and calling upon God for mercy and strength, we trust in the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21) enabling us to produce good fruit. God is consistently conforming us to His will; by God’s grace we are continually making progress in becoming more like Christ.

We make progress one step at a time as we trust the Lord to work, strengthening us from within (Philippians 4:13).

(3) We don’t make any serious strategies.

I need to visualize the goal and ask the Lord to show me what I need to do to get to that goal.

Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” The Bible says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel….” (Proverbs 15:22).

Plans aren’t meant to be “hope so,” but rather a step-by-step strategy for success.

Strategies might include getting good counsel, organizing time and effort to fit godly priorities, and creating steps of action that align with our purpose or mission statement.

(4) We don’t remember the source of our spiritual progress.

When we commit to the Lord what we want to accomplish, we can believe Him to “establish” our plans (Proverbs 16:3, 9; Psalm 20:4).

We seek  His desires and wisdom (Isaiah 28:29; 55:8).

We are meant to live in a state of dependence on the Lord for everything!

(5) We don’t discipline our lives. In other words, we don’t commit to implementing the strategies with a disciplined life (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

In other words:

Envisioning a goal and making strategies won’t work if I don’t take disciplined action!

Self-Discipline may be painful, but it will yield blessings (Hebrews 12:11)

Along with self-discipline, there must be a heart attitude of willing sacrifice—a “whatever it takes” heart to follow hard after God’s will. We say, “Yes, Lord!” when He gives direction. Then we can set procedures in place to back up our willingness with obedience.

(6) We don’t take time to create a reliable source of accountability.

We are stronger in pursuing holy goals when others come alongside us. As iron sharpens iron,” friends can help and support us (Proverbs 27:17) and spur us on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Remember:

Deciding to make a choice isn’t the same as actually making the choice.

And in making the choice, we need to strategize, recruit support and remember where the power and wisdom come from to move forward and accomplish great things for the Kingdom of God.

Which of these points could help you move from deciding to doing?

 – * Humor: Cybersalt Digest, “Decisions,” 5-13-14

 – GraphicImage courtesy of japanachai at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 – Dawn

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