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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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A Simple Blessing after Christmas

27 Dec
I always think of Christmas as a time of blessing, but I read these “Christmas Facts”* from the United Kingdom (written after Christmas, 2009), and said, “Oh my!”
Here are just a few of those facts:
  • Hospitals in the UK reported four broken arms after “cracker pulling” accidents. [I cannot imagineChristmasCrackers_FreeFoto this… holiday crackers (see right) look so benign!]
  • Three people die each year testing to see if a 9-volt battery works on their tongue.
  • Thirty-one people died (since 1996) by watering their Christmas tree while the tree lights were plugged in. (The UK apparently calls them “fairy lights.”)
  • Nineteen people died within a three-year period, believing that Christmas decorations were chocolate. (Huh?)
  • One hundred and one people (since 1997) had to have broken parts of plastic toys pulled out of the soles of their feet.
  • One hundred and forty two people were injured, just in 1998, by not removing all pins from new shirts.

May your Christmases always be accident free … especially from those silly things!

I’ll keep this short. Christmas is over and you’re probably exhausted from church and family events. But your heart is full, right?

But if your house is like mine, after the holidays, my house feels a bit chaotic. I keep wishing one of my Christmas gifts was a housekeeper!

HeadingInto2015

I want to share a simple blessing I read in Dianne Barker‘s great book about organizing for the maximum life. **

“When life becomes hectic and harried,

   may you find calm in the chaos.

If your floors don’t sparkle,

   may the glory of the Lord light your face.

If grime streaks your bathroom sink,

   may it never corrode your heart.

If you’re racing the clock and losing,

   may you choose the important over the urgent.”

What a great way to head into the New Year – (1) embracing a calm perspective (by focusing on the  peace of God), and (2) living for God’s glory with (3) a pure heart and (4) right priorities.

[Simple scriptures for meditation on these points: Philippians 4:7; 1 Corinthians 10:31 & Ephesians 1:12; Matthew 5:8; Matthew 6:33]

Take a moment to think about your life right now. Which of those four areas needs a little work today?

Working on even one of them over the next few days might prepare you for the New Year a lot better than a list of resolutions.

– Dawn

Photo of Christmas Cracker: Image Supplied by FreeFoto.com.

* “Christmas Facts” from Sparkpeople.com, 12-26-09

** Book by Dianne Barker: I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! (Crossroad Books, 2014),p. 179.

 

Predictions

5 Sep

My friend Mike Atkinson emailed me (Dawn) some predictions of headlines from the year 2059. Among the predictions:

  • Baby conceived naturally! Scientists stumped. (LOL)
  • Castro finally dies at age 112; Cuban cigars can now be imported legally, but President Chelsea Clinton has banned all smoking.
  • George Z. Bush says he will run for President in 2060.
  • Postal Service raises price of first class stamp to $17.89 and reduces mail delivery to Wednesdays only.
  • 85-year, $75.8 billion study:  Diet and exercise is the key to weight loss. [No fooling.]
  • Supreme Court rules punishment of criminals violates their civil rights.
  • Average height of NBA players is now nine feet seven inches.
  • IRS sets lowest tax rate at 75 percent.

I’m not sure whether to laugh or say “ouch” at those predictions ... especially that one about the tax rate!

I read with interest the 29 predictions made by John Elfreth Watkins, Jr.,  in December 1900 in The Ladies Home Journal. Some were right on, such as the fact that wireless telephone and telegraph circuits would span the world, and electricity would be used instead of coal for heating and cooking.No Mosquitos

Others were funny, such as his prediction that there would be no mosquitoes or flies, or that we would eat peas and beans as large as beets, or strawberries as large as apples. Watkins said there would be no “C,” “X,” or Q” in our everyday alphabet; they would be abandoned as unnecessary.

The Bible gives lots of predictions about the future, and students of biblical prophecy have learned to read the “signs” of the End Times.  Even people in the world who do not believe the Bible consider others’ Predictionspredictions, such as the prophecies of Nostradamus or the Mayan calendar and its dire predictions for 2012.

We humans are naturally curious about prophecy and predictions, because we want to know the future ~ we want to be prepared.

But some people are totally preoccupied with predictions out of fear.

Jesus answered the disciples concerns about “the end of the world” in Matthew 24:3-14. He shared various signs and He didn’t paint a pretty picture of things to come, but in the midst of His description, Jesus gave this word of comfort (v. 6): “see to it that you are not alarmed” ~ not frightened or troubled.

This is always the balance of scripture. 2 Timothy 3:1 tells us that “perilous times shall come,” but the Bible also tells us, in 2 Timothy 1:7, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  We’re not to fear these scary times. We can respond with a calm, disciplined, strong mind if we keep a biblical perspective. We know who wins. We know the One who can empower us to respond in love and confidence, and the Spirit of God gives us the wisdom and strength to stand against the lies of the enemy in our generation.

Face it. As we get closer and closer to the End Times described in the Bible, we’re going to see more signs of His coming, and some are scary ~ like increasing wars in the Middle East, more weapons of mass destruction, the growth of a one-world power, and economic struggle that will lead to a global economy. I heard so many End Times Posterpredictions about the economy in the past weeks that my heart beat faster and I started thinking about how to “prepare” in case of disaster (and that’s not a bad idea).

But always, we need to remember that ~ no matter the circumstances ~ God is in control, and He loves and cares for His children. Anything that touches us is by His design and for His ultimate glory, and He gives us the power to endure in suffering. And if we suffer to the point of death, it’s a win for the believer. We get to spend eternity with God!

I love Jesus’ words in John 14:1. Jesus understood His disciples concerns about the future and where their Master was headed. He told them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled (distressed, agitated). You believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely on God; believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely also on Me.” (Amplified Version)

Jesus said He was going home to prepare “a place” for His followers, and He promised the Holy Spirit would come to indwell, comfort, and guide (v. 26). But Jesus didn’t stop there. He bequeathed to the disciples (and to us) a special gift ~ His peace (v. 27). It is not the peace the world offers, but supernatural, God-blessed peace.

And then Jesus said something (in the middle of verse 27) to encourage them and us: “Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.]” (Amplified Version)

Jesus wants us to respond to the predictions of troubling times in a way that is very different from the world. The world will naturally fear ~ maybe even panic. We see this in Luke 21:26, which tells us men’s hearts will fail for fear (they will faint in terror or worse) when they see the events of the End Times come to pass.

Perfect PeaceBut we who know God must respond in surrender to and trust in Him, and as we trust, an amazing thing will happen. Isaiah 26:3 says it well: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Psalm 112:7 says it another way ~ we will not fear “evil tidings” when our heart is “fixed [steadfast], trusting in the Lord.”

So when “evil tidings” ~ scary predictions ~ come, do something positive to focus in the right direction. Pray. Call out to God, your deliverer in trouble (Psalm 91:15-16). Memorize Bible passages about God’s provision and power. Sing to the Lord of your trust in Him. Read scriptures that will remind you of His goodness and care for His own. Remind yourself that the “spirit of fear” is not from Him, and choose to cast it out of your life by faith. Claim the promises of scripture.

May God give us all great freedom from fear in these days and those to come as we learn to lean hard on His loving care and faithfulness.

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